by Linda Bierds

For warmth in that Swedish winter, the child,

aged one, wore petticoats hooked from angora,

knotted and looped to a star-shaped weave.

And for her father, there at the well lip,

she did seem to float in the first magnitude --

upright, far down the cylindric dark,

with the star of her petticoats

buoyantly rayed on the black water.

One foot in the water bucket, one foot

glissading a brickwork of algae, he stair-stepped

down, calling a bit to her soft cries, while

his weight, for neighbors working the tandem crank,

appeared, disappeared, like a pulse.

In bottom silt, the mottled snails

pulled back in their casings

as her brown-shoed legs lifted, the image

for them ancient, limed with departure:

just a shimmer of tentacles

as the skirt of a mantle collapsed

and a shape thrust off toward answering shapes,

there, and then not, above.

Linda Bierds is the director of the writing program at the University of Washington in Seattle and a MacArthur Foundation fellow.

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