ORBIT

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.


All material copyright © 2000 . All rights reserved.


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