This week’s poem, Matthew Bernier’s “Summer Ancients,” finds us in a lake and a primeval state of being. I love this poem’s attention to both poetic image and biological detail (Potamogeton is a kind of pondweed), and how fully it immerses us in the wild and the deep.

Bernier’s poem “The Day Mary Oliver Died” won the 2020 Margaret F. Tripp Poetry award for Joy of the Pen, the online literary journal of the Topsham Public Library, and in 2021, one of his poems placed third in the Maine Postmark Poetry Contest. He works professionally as a civil and environmental engineer, restoring sea-run fish including endangered Atlantic salmon to Maine rivers, through projects like dam removals.

Summer Ancients

By Matthew Bernier

A snapping turtle drifts past stolid wooden docks
disguised as a floating log, its sunken knothole eyes
leering at a lakeshore awash with reflections of pines
and light cracking as morning twists its kaleidoscope;

the reptile’s devilish tail and clawed feet occasionally
breaching a lake surface constellated with pine pollen,
the huge snapper’s mouth breathing, neutrally buoyant,
summer’s warm water holding less dissolved oxygen

as colorful, dangling ties of bikinis waver in the lake
like so many strands of recently uprooted Potamogeton;
someone cleaned a pickerel on a planked dock last night
and lobbed viscera into the water as if making a wish,

and the turtle swam across a cove under moonlight,
not knowing that I, too, in that summer without faith,
felt monstrous and ancient, as if struggling for breath,
dragging my mossy back through this modern world.

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. “Summer Ancients,” copyright © 2022 by Matthew Bernier, appears by permission of the author.

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