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Water Strider

He walks on water
with long, tensile legs
skates the surface of this element
leaving no ripple, no distorted clarity
never breaking the surface tension
quite at home in the sky
mirrored under him.

He is no philosopher
though you might think him one
where he moves like an artist's eyelash
delicate as a thought, a contact point
a synapsis
between water and sky.

The thought he embodies cannot be
translated into language
only experienced
in the languorous stroke
through oils
in the sky laying itself upon water.

From the side he is Fred Astaire
dancing on a mirror
making it look like air, as if air
and gravity never wed—
debonair, a gentleman
of equilibrious smile.

In the green and flittering shallows
a watery prism, he wavers
over the many-colored shadows, a kaleidoscope
turning the world in a dance
his shadow revolving
like a zodiac on the sand
beneath all suspended in the clear element.

He writes one word over and over
though no one will read it
before it vanishes: so clear, it is
transparent, his tele tele
that leaves the thing itself
before you think of it as that
before it is that and not this.

Though he writes his word over and over
he leaves no mark, not even a line like skywriting
to hang in the air an instant. Now
in the moment of his stroke are color and shape
a pattern light flashes around, a point
that vanishes and appears
to vanish again.

"Water Strider" is reprinted by permission from The Waters Under the Earth (Canon Press), ©2005 by Robert Siegel. He is the author most recently of The Waters Under the Earth and A Pentecost of Finches: New and Selected Poems (Paraclete Press).

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