Rock Pool

1

Water roared everywhere around us, yet from the bank
all we could see of it were quick spumes and flashes
here and there, in among the boulders. Cautiously,
as if they might awaken, we clambered over
the gigantic slabs and humps, the sun-baked ovals
lumpy as hammered clay, and saw downstream below us
only the vague shapes of others, almost billowy,
like magnified amoebas, stretching away to even
vaguer ones beyond them, turning the narrow
streambed through the valley to a lunar seam.


       2

Easing ourselves down over the massive sides
(we were hot and tired, eager for the pools below)
we could make out older water in the rough grain,
undulating and immobile currents, band swirled on band,
mica-speckled, cloudy, each seeming to move off,
as it faded, through the stone—each one a glacial rune,
each boulder an innumerable pebble in the ice sheet’s
tidal suck and drag: two hundred thousand years,
two billion, five, the molten core, spoor
of gasses in the vast night, at our fingertips.


       3

Then the pool: your clothes shed, with one hand braced
against the rock ledge you had slipped into the hip-high
rushing water, and were wading out, bent over, reaching
like the blind before you for the slippery boulder
you slid across, pushing against the white weight
of the pouring mist, your skin goose-fleshed, speckled
bright as mica, and then, part mist yourself,
you turned back, smiling, calling though I couldn’t
hear you, calling and waving for me to climb down
to where you were, to join you there. And so I did.
Alan Shapiro, “Rock Pool” from Covenant (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1991).. Copyright © 1991 by Alan Shapiro. Reprinted with the permission of the author.
Source: Covenant (The University of Chicago Press, 1991)
More Poems by Alan R. Shapiro