This week’s poem deftly moves from a simple professional moment to a deeper human connection.

Elizabeth Tibbetts lives in Hope and works as a nurse. Her poems have appeared in many journals and have been read on “The Writer’s Almanac.” Her most recent book is “Say What You Can” (Deerbrook Editions, 2019).


By Elizabeth Tibbetts

“Do you skinny dip?” he asks, this man

caught behind plate glass while the green,

late-summer world beckons and glitters

outside. We’ve been talking about swimming –

the draw of quarry, ocean, lake, and stream.

I don’t answer, but describe my morning

immersions with my dog in the silken pond.


I don’t say how I go daily for water’s caress,

to find my own pulse and breath, listen

for God, learn my length and breadth. I don’t

mention that I carry my basket of troubles

down to be washed. Sometimes this job

(this life) breaks my heart with its losses

and riches. Why not say “Yes,” crack the old


professional code (it’s only love that sustains us)

and give, along with his morphine, a glimpse

again of a body swimming unencumbered.

Instead, I place my hands on his frail back

and press my fingers along the muscles and bones

of his shoulders and spine where he still knows

every stroke, everything that’s touched him.

Gibson Fay-LeBlanc is a poet who lives in Portland. Deep Water: Maine Poems is produced in collaboration with the Maine Writers & Publishers Alliance. Poem copyright © 2018 Elizabeth Tibbetts. It appeared originally in Beloit Poetry Review and appears here by permission of the author. For an archive of all the poems that have appeared in this column, go to

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