A Fish

How to be a fish, or like a fish, or with the fish. To be in water, for the love of water. All lake, all longing to be submerged.

note: I’m using this virtual space to gather together resources, ideas, images, other peoples’ words about water. I’ve done a lot of research — albeit in an undisciplined way — about water. And I’m constantly revising and adding to poems about water and swimming. Slowly, I’m building up one or two or more collections featuring water.

Water Videos

The dock at the little beach which, since COVID, is no longer there. During open swims at Lake Nokomis, I liked swimming around this dock as part of my loop.
My daughter enjoying the first and last swims of the season. Her first swim was less than a week after a suprise May snowstorm dumped 5 or 6 inches.
Lake Superior: where I was born
My dad discussing the importance of a body of water for his identity.
A digital story I created after my first season of open swim in 2013.

Water Poems

  1. The Unnamed River/ Arthur Sze
  2. Morning Swim/ Maxine Kumin
  3. The Nude Swim/ Anne Sexton
  4. Water in Love/ Ed Bok Lee
  5. Open Water/ Ada Limón
  6. Smile/ Lorine Niedecker
  7. Fog-thick morning/ Lorine Niedecker
  8. The Thing Is/ Ellen Bass
  9. The Pond at Dusk/ JANE KENYON
  10. Exercise/ W.S. Merwin (may 1972)
  11. To Swim, To Believe/ Maxine Kumin
  12. I started early, took my dog/ Emily Dickinson
  13. After the Dragonflies/ W.S. Merwin
  15. 7 Shard/ CAConrad
  16. Sound Waves/ Amy Ludwig VanDerwate
  17. After the Rain/ Jared Carter
  18. WAVE AFTER WAVE/ M. Bartley Seigel
  19. Sea Poem/ Alice Oswald
  20. From Nowhere/ Marie Howe
  21. Evaporations/ Alice Oswald
  22. A Swim in Co. Wicklow/ DEREK MAHON
  23. Summer Rain/John Waters
  24. Swimming in the Rain/ Chana Bloch
  25. Heavy Summer Rain/ Jane Kenyon
  26. Rain/ Kazim Ali
  27. The Rainwalkers/ Denise Levertov
  28. Fog/ Carl Sandburg
  29. And the Old Man Speaks of Paradise: a Ghazal/ Wang Ping
  30. Swimming/ Sarah Arvio
  31. The Fish/ Elizabeth Bishop
  32. Preface from ‘swims’/ Elizabeth-Jane Burnett
  33. Out of Water/ Marie Ponsot
  34. Lake Water/ David Ferry
  35. Be Water My Friend/ Bruce Lee
  36. Vow/ Diana Khoi Nguyen
  37. 2 Mississippi/ Steve Healey
  38. Breakage/ Mary Oliver
  39. WATER/ Li Young-Lee
  40. I Go Down To The Shore/ Mary Oliver
  41. Holmes Lake/ Jessica Poli 
  42. Corsons Inlet/ A. R. Ammons
  43. Wrong Side of the River/ Stanley Plumly
  44. Have you got a Brook in your little heart
  45. Paean to Place/ LORINE NIEDECKER
  46. from EXAQUA [Oh, that’s what I was]/ Jan-Henry Gray
  47. The Humpbacks/ Mary Oliver
  48. ROCK BOTTOM/ Eamon Grennan
  49. Buoy/ Savannah V. Evans
  50. A Short Story of Falling/ ALICE OSWALD
  51. The Fish/ Mary Oliver
  52. Portrait of a Figure Near Water/ Jane Kenyon
  53. from The Cataract of Lodore/ Robert Southey
  54. The River/ HUMBERTO AK’ABAL
  55. Dart/ Alice Oswald especially the swimmer
  56. A RUSHED ACCOUNT OF THE DEW / Alice Oswald
  57. All/ Jorie Graham
  58. Still Life with Window and Fish / Jorie Graham (recording)
  59. Swimming Laps/ Arthur Sze
  60. The Ponds/ Mary Oliver
  61. Moist/ Anna Myles
  62. Swimming, One Day in August/ Mary Oliver
  63. Rain/ Kazim Ali

Some Themes I’m Pursuing

One: Water and Stone

It is the nature of stone
to be satisfied.
It is the nature of water
to want to be somewhere else.

Everywhere we look:
the sweet guttural swill of the water
Everywhere we look:
the stone, basking in the sun, 

or offering itself
to the golden lichen.

“Gravel”/Mary Oliver

Two: Water, Water Everywhere

Literal and Metaphorical Meanings of Water

  • Literal: The sensation of swimming in rough water, with waves crashing into me or rocking me or pushing me along. Currents that move me off course. Tall waves that disorient. Swells that make it harder to stroke in the water and breathe. All the spray. Feeling powerful as I use my shoulders to lift higher out of the water and slice through it. The initial panic I feel as I adjust to breathing and stroking differently. The enjoyment I get out of wrestling with the water. The satisfaction, from staying on course. The way time disappears as I focus on breathing and not swallowing too much water–no before or after, only now.
  • Metaphorical: Waves of emotion–grief, joy, worry, anxiety–washing over me. Often unanticipated, invisible at first, like the lake from the shore looking deceptively calm. Learning to handle the intensity/overwhelmingness: fighting the waves, surrendering to them, learning to adapt and adjust, relenting to the water or moving with instead of against it. Water as cleansing, scouring, washing away memories. Flowing, erasing, saturating.

Three: Differences between lakes, rivers, seas

Differences between different bodies of water: lakes, river, seas (I’m suddenly remembering my discussion of ED and brooks — see: march 13, 2021 and the quotation I posted about lakes versus rivers from For Love of Lakes / Darby Nelson — see: august 16, 2021)

See March: Alice Oswald’s Dart

More of Others’ Words

excerpt from The First Water Is the Body/ Natalie Diaz

The Colorado River is the most endangered river in the United States— also, it is a part of my body.

I carry a river. It is who I am: ‘Aha Makav. This is not metaphor.

When a Mojave says, Inyech ‘Aha Makavch ithuum, we are saying our name. We are telling a story of our existence. The river runs through the middle of my body.

So far, I have said the word river in every stanza. I don’t want to waste water. I must preserve the river in my body.

In future stanzas, I will try to be more conservative.

excerpt from Wilderness/ Carl Sandburg

There is a fish in me . . . I know I came from salt-blue water-gates . . . I scurried with shoals of herring . . . I blew waterspouts with porpoises . . . before land was . . . before the water went down . . . before Noah . . . before the first chapter of Genesis.

some more resources*

*I’m posting these as a list on 29 sept 2022. They come from links I gathered on my Safari Reading List over the past 5 years. I hope to review these links further and add in passages that I find particularly important/useful/striking/strange.

essays involving water

about swimming, especially open water swimming, and water


water and literature