July 1, 2020, west shore, Lake Tahoe
This instant as kids scramble
atop a makeshift island floating like
a bright penny on chilly emerald water
that grows warmer every day.
This moment as two teenage
boys dive off the dock where I sit
inhaling the vastness of mountain lake,
their slender forms cutting neatly
between flashing sun stars—
only to emerge heads shining,
Pointed noses of motorboats bob
as so many pleasure craft, decently
distanced, drift around tetherball floats.
A bearded fellow paddles by on his
standing board with an unseen
device broadcasting Pearl Jam, and
I want him to hurry by, take his tunes
elsewhere. A young woman suns
tushie up on the dock, her daily practice
no matter what, I hear her tell
A flock of 14 Canada geese cruises
a watery path parallel to shore,
having no idea that their native land
celebrates its independence today,
three days before ours, those
northern neighbors who, for now,
shun us, a country of plenty roiling
in turmoil, much of it our own making.
We are all of us wildlife in this
precarious time, even here
in this limbo of beauty and illusion,
as I engage in a few days of
magical thinking, trying to leave
behind those struggling for breath,
those howling in protest, those
carrying fears and griefs too numerous
to name. I have temporarily fled
my own isolation to seize these
precious, peaceful moments.
Still, even here, alone on my portion
of dock, I wear my mask, my face
flushed under late afternoon sun.
I watch the kids on the floating raft
laugh and roughhouse in good fun,
splash into rippling water, whoop
as their mouths meet air, clamber
back up among their fellows.
In the same instant eight members
of the flock paddle paddle glide by
this human anchored to the steady dock,
their black webbed feet visible just
beneath the surface of sparkling green.
Beneath my mask I smile at their
nearness. The leader turns his ebony
head, meets my eye, and utters a gentle
honk echoed by his brethren, an
inter-species acknowledgment I hear