I used to take the old, red canoe after school before
my brother got it and find freedom on the pond
though it was covered in algae and fingers of weeds that grabbed you
from under. Out I would go, a silent paddler, learned at midnight
when humans slept. Dipping into the dark water with a perfect arc of
stroke, a sliver of silver, a flash of speed,
Pocahontas with no braids, paddling to the island floating on the lake
with birch trees like antennas poking up to the sky. I was invisible.
The canoe always found its shelf under the trees who bent down to cover me
and my hand took the frayed, gray rope held before by
prior escapees and wrapped a bowline
around the harsh white and black of the bark on the tree trunk.
I was safe.
Utterly still on the verdant moss, velvet skin to caress, lying back softly,
my hair was green, my hands were green, the camouflage was working.
It always worked.
No one could find me here.
The birches were wrapped in paper bark with messages
underneath like ancient Greek tablets only I could translate.
Sometimes it took all afternoon.
I was a stubborn child and waiting was my middle name.
Small and large ants crisscrossed my bony ankles like feathers
A snake came and went.
There was a bird call.
The island was so still nothing could move it off its anchor.
I learned everything I know from that bark.
Lucinda Watson taught communication at the Haas School of Business at UC Berkeley for fifteen years. Her book of interviews How They Achieved: Stories of Personal Achievement and Business Success was published in 2001 by Wiley. In addition, her work has appeared in over a dozen journals including The Louisville Review, The Round, Poet Laurie and Pennsylvania English. Two of her poems were nominated for the 2017 Pushcart Prize. She received an MFA in writing at Manhattanville College. She also studied with Sharon Olds, Richard Blanco and Robert Hass. To learn more, see her listing in Poets & Writers.