Judith McCombs


Why do we find it so easy
to welcome the greening and flowering
forced out of hiding each year,
but watch with unease the grappling
clawed feet and helmet-like shells
tilted belly to belly and gently,
forcibly rocking the waters
of their petal-strewn pond?
     Who designed this
slow-motion combat, this primeval
embrace? Why the pale snake neck
arching for air, flopping over,
wounded or spent? and the other's head
lifting from the center of ripples,
wordlessly hissing? Pulled
and repelled, we look elsewhere, trade stories
of sharp beaks slicing into the soft
duckling or swimmer.
and unbeautiful, souls hidden
by shells, the air-breathers rest
side by side in the quieted waters.
But soon they're at it again,
this antediluvian display
and testing of power that is nearer,
much nearer, to our sort of clasping
and grappling than all the petals
that ever there were, floating
like down on this apple-flanked pond.


Rock blocked water:

Water fought rock.


Water brought root:

Rock lodged root.


Root caught water:

Root broke rock.


Water naught.

Root stopped.


Judith McCombs
Judith McCombs grew up in almost all the continental states, in a geodetic surveyor's family. Her work appears in Calyx, Nimrod (a Neruda Award), Poet Lore, Poetry, Poetry Northwest, Potomac Review (Poetry Prize), Prairie Schooner, Prism, Sisters of the Earth, and elsewhere. She has held NEH and Canadian Senior Embassy Fellowships, and Michigan and Maryland Arts Awards. The Habit of Fire: Poems Selected and New (Word Works 2005) is her seventh book. She teaches at the Writer's Center in Bethesda MD, arranges the Kensington Row Bookshop poetry readings, and serves as poetry editor for Potomac Review.



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