BODIES OF WATER
viewing George Went Swimming at Barnes Hole, but It Got Cold by Joan Mitchell (1957)
In the painting, the dog’s splashes
– evoked in bold strokes of black
and blue, a daub of red –
strike me not playful,
more a frightened flailing.
As when the pup slipped
off a log into Coal Creek’s
How I jumped in after, caught
and held him high, close to my chest.
For how long or how far
we were carried, I don’t know.
But the water pounded loud,
beat my legs against rocks until
a cottonwood, rooted on the bank,
offered its overhung branch.
After a recent flood, a black bear
started crossing the road. A man
– his twin 12-year olds in the truck –
braked and swerved
into the swollen creek.
Father and Eliza live, but
in a torrent of red hair and spring run-off,
Today, the creek is as high
as it was that morning years ago,
and I remember the spot
where the pup fell in is where
the creek freezes over –
where our dog before him,
lay on the ice to cool
his cancer-riddled body.