Manda Frederick


We both come from the same place, you know:
three quarters of our lives by water, though
your beginning was much braver than mine:
a bold thing, that clear-moving nest,
not even a cluster to cling to
in the tension of that surface.
You were small and clear, like you were
never even there. But you were there--in the water--
until you split and merged
like a cell or a kiss; burdened by wings, those
wet sheets draped around your back,
you came into the air.

From the air,
from a plane going inland,
Northwest, I watched water
whittle dry, lakes go dark and brown.
So we've found ourselves landlocked
in a dry, temperate climate.
Maybe we've resisted
thinking of thunderstorms swelling
over great lakes; we've given up
looking into tall grass at dusk
for fireflies swarming yellow rhythms through
Midwestern humidity; maybe we don't care
if we ever see beach glass again.

If only, like you, I could evolve
toward needlessness: one ounce of water
holds your interest.
It's enviable,
how clever you are:

sleeping in snow, out-waiting
spring runoff; you've learned
to love water-filled tires, the stems
of cut flowers, a muddy shoe print.
Still--though your thirst is small,
it is red and deep.
I don't blame you for drinking
from my shoulder, your salivating trumpet
sounding into my skin, your song
suppressing the body's response:
clots fall away from the open surface
like all-wrong words from a gaping mouth--
you are culling my cells
away from the heart.

Go on; take them:
we are thinking the same thing, anyway:
water. Big water. Water that can hold
ore boats and all the rocks
we'd ever want to throw into it.

When you dislodge from my shirt,
you rise up--a little heavier now--
and carry us away; I don't know to where,
but I know exactly to where, all at once.

Manda Frederick holds an MFA in creative nonfiction from Eastern Washington University, where she also served as the NF editor for Willow Springs Literary Magazine. She currently teaches writing and critical inquiry at Western Washington University, where she also serves under Brenda Miller as the poetry editor for the Bellingham Review. She has had work published in Switchback and Brew City Magazine.

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