by Ellen Bass
The water over slick plates, river water
dark, thick, warm
as water is at night.
She pushes back her skirt, her sleeves
rolled above the elbow, dips her hands into the water,
soft, heavy, flooding the plates.
They told her photography is not creative.
She believed them
until now, these nights
her fingertips grooved like the sand of river beds,
the willow and black alder rustling, the owl's hoo hoo
resonating, she can feel its tremor in the water.
Wet. The wet scent of river mud, river grass.
Water is the color of night, liquid
black without reflection. River stones, the soft turf
of river bank, her own arms and hands
are vague in the shallow star light.
All night she crouches,
her knees imprinted with wet folds of her skirts,
her hands certain, familiar to water, fish.
All night the images emerge
in imperceptible degrees, as she dips and rinses,
dips and rinses, the rush of river
obscuring that faint hum of planets
until the lightening of
mass into form, shadow,
shades of gray, pale
tinge of color, dawn.
She gathers up her plates.
Walking back to the house she shivers,
thinks about breakfast, ham, buttered toast
in a pewter rack, the next night.