This week’s poem sets us in a high-summer lake – and among the swarming greenhead flies that sometimes plague swimmers. I love how Mark Melnicove’s succinct description and dialogue drive both the story and the swim along, in this quietly wry, Zen-like little anecdote of forbearance.

A recipient of PEN’s New England Discovery Award, Melnicove is author of two ekphrastic poetry collections – “Sometimes Times” (Two Palms Press, 2017), with printmaker Terry Winters, and “Ghosts” (Cedar Grove House, 2018), with painter Abby Shahn. He is co-author of “Africa is Not a Country” (2001 Africana Book Award winner). 

Crawling with Uncle D

By Mark Melnicove

Uncle D, the dermatologist,
and I were swimming in the pond, green heads
attacking us. I swatted and discharged as many
as I could, as quickly as possible.
Uncle D kept his head down and ploughed onward with
his crawl, letting them have at him. “Watch out,
Uncle D,” I shouted. “They’re feasting on your flesh!”

He stopped mid-stroke and turned to inspect the insects.
“They have to make a living, too,” he said.
“What about the welts their bites are leaving
on your skull, shoulders, and neck?” I asked.
“No doubt they will increase my empathy
for patients who are not unblemished,” he explained,
picking up with his crawl, outdistancing me.

Megan Grumbling is a poet and writer who lives in Portland. Deep Water: Maine Poems is produced in collaboration with the Maine Writers & Publishers Alliance. “Crawling with Uncle D” copyright © 2020 by Mark Melnicove. It appears by permission of the author.


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