“Sleeping on the Surface” by Elizabeth Crowell

A flock of geese falls from the sky 
onto the moon-spackled water 
and settles into sleep. 

Even on such solid ground,
a hand on the shoulder, memory settled, 
bent like these bridges, over and untouching, 

it’s easy to feel the slight swell on which they dream,
the swoop of river curves, the subtle unrest
of city light missing the water. 

Sculls spill through the stone bridges
towards the glowing boathouses;
one with eight pale arms in unison.  

The parallel oars flash in the dusk
as if to say this much is arranged.
The sleeping birds, necks low, lay

in the soft boat of themselves, unstirred,
as the tiny purple light at the shell’s end
becomes the only mark there is, purposeful,

(why not say like a heart?) Beyond the bridge,
around the bend, quick in the night,
towards a dock that slants up to the earth,

while here the birds, wake and spill their bodies,
one after another, to the water,
stirring the night surface full of stars.

Elizabeth Crowell grew up in northern New Jersey and has a B.A. from Smith College in English Literature and an M.F.A. in Creative Writing/Poetry from Columbia University. She taught college and high school English for many years. She lives outside of Boston with her wife and teenage children.