swimming in the sky

by Harway in Swimming in the Sky

An astronaut on the space shuttle described viewing the earth through a porthole: Because of the multi-layered window, she saw her own reflection with two small earths for the irises of her eyes.

At dusk the lake fell mirror-still. I’d tiptoe
out the saggy dock, lie down and watch as low sun
filled the water. Leaning out, I met my eyes
reflected, my face cast back over my shoulder
to the sky. Below, the shallow liquid heavens
turned left into right, dream into waking,
shadow into body figured on a looking glass
through which bullheads and turtles lazed
along the bottom. Clouds swam in my eyes.

As sky slipped down from gold to red to grey, I’d wait
and wait forever for the evening star:
Star light, star bright, I’d sing to it,
fourteen years old and hungry for the world
to spill its riches at my feet the way stars spilled
to the darkened lake. This was, for me, the edge
of the known world: where moonrise
lent the tree-hung shore to shadow,
where quicksilver light bestowed its pathway

to a far horizon. As smooth as sleep comes on,
I’d slip into the water, limbs fluttering
like fins down deep, no splash or ripple troubling
the surface where infinity and time and timeless space
unfurled around me. Lying back, my body glowed,
a noctilucent cloud adrift above the world. I dreamed
so much those days of how great lives unfolded:
Robert Falcon Scott, who died on polar ice, I read,
was birthed the morning after his young mother swam

as far out as she dared, until her white limbs numbed,
swam out and lay in waves of silver moonlight, telling him,
the baby in her womb, Fear nothing, Child.
Fear nothing. Child that I was, how did I dream
this life I’ve come to live? Did I dream the baby
who’d float in my body’s ocean as I swam to free us both
from gravity, the swell of water bearing us
in weightlessness? The night my own dam broke,
when labor turned the universe of me

back to a simple body, how mightily it seemed
my child tried to hold back the sea that rocked her.
Morning dawned at last: she washed up on the dry shore
of her father’s hands, all glistening and wet
the way I stood in shallows after night swims,
shaking droplets from my hair, my limbs, stars falling
into sky and water into water,
the cosmos shivering like a field of fireflies.