Lorine Niedecker

Paean to Place
from The Granite Pail

                            And the place was water




	Water lily mud

My life

in the leaves and on water

My mother and I


in swale and swamp and sworn

to water

My father

thru marsh fog

	sculled down

		from high ground

saw her face

at the organ 

bore the weight of lake water

	and the cold-

he seined for carp to be sold

that their daughter

might go high

on land

	to learn

Saw his wife turn


and away


	who knew boats

		 and ropes

no longer played

She helped him string out nets

for tarring

	And she could shoot

		He was cool

to the man

who stole his minnows

by night and next day offered

	to sell them back

		He brought in a sack

of dandelion greens

if no flood

No oranges-none at hand

	No marsh marigolds

		where the water rose

He kept us afloat

I mourn her not hearing canvasbacks

their blast-off rise

	from the water

		Not hearing sora

rail's sweet

spoon-tapped waterglass-

descending scale-


		Did she giggle

as a girl?

His skiff skimmed

The coiled celery now gone

	from these streams

		due to carp

He knew duckweed


toward Mud Lake bottom

	Knew what lay

		under leaf decay

and on pickerelweeds

before summer hum 

To be counted on:

	new leaves

		new dead


He could not

-like water bugs-

	stride surface tension

		He netted


As to his bright new car

my mother-her house

	next his-averred:

		A hummingbird

can't haul

Anchored here 

In the rise and sink

	of life-

		middle years' nights

he sat

beside his shoes

rocking his chair

	Roped not ˜looped 

		in the loop

of her hair'

I grew in green
slide and slant

	of shore and shade


thru weeds

Maples to swing from






Grew riding the river


	at home-pier

		Shelley could steer

as he read

I was the solitary plover

a pencil

	for a wing-bone

From the secret notes

I must tilt

upon the pressure

execute and adjust

	In us sea-air rhythm

˜We live by the urgent wave 

of verse'

Seven-year molt

for the solitary bird

	and so young

Seven years the one


for town once a week

One for home

	Faded blue-striped

as she piped

her cry

Dancing grounds

my people had none

	woodcocks had-


air around


Such as what flower

	to take

	to grandfather's grave


water lilies-

he who'd bowed his head

	to grass as he mowed

	Iris now grows

on fill

for the two

and for him

	where they lie

	How much less am I

in the dark than they?

Effort lay in us

Before religions

	at pond bottom

		All things move toward

the light

except those

that freely work down

	to oceans' black depths

		In us an impulse tests

the unknown

River rising-flood

Now melt and leave home

	Return-broom wet

		naturally wet


soak-heavy rug

water bugs hatched-

	no snake in the house

		Where were they?-


who knew how to clean up

after floods

	he who bailed boats, houses

		Water endows us

with buckled floors

You with sea water running

in your veins sit down in water

	Expect the long-stemmed blue

		speedwell to renew


O my floating life

Do not save love

	for things

		Throw things

to the flood


by the flood

	Leave the new unbought

		all one in the end-


I possessed

the high word:

	The boy my friend

		played his violin

in the great hall

On this stream

my moonnight memory

	washed of hardships

		maneuvers barges

thru the mouth

of the river

They fished in beauty

	It was not always so 

		In Fishes

red Mars


rides the sloughs and sluices

	of my mind

		with the persons

on the edge

spoken = Joan Bernier