One Poem by Daniel Corrie

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Swimming at Night

i. Enterer

Heat’s dark is the summer.

Starlight blinks in lake’s lulling sway,

place now left to squirrels and possums,
to slopes of slash and loblolly,
then to me come to kick off
my sweat-wet jeans.

Here teenage lifeguards once looked down
from their high, protecting chairs.

Chairs’ ladders rise in raggedness
of rungs gone, dry boards in a green forest
given way under weight
maybe of boys’ feet
fugitive from school.

My bare feet have walked where other feet walked
sinking in the same mud of lake bed.

Down these banks, boys waded in trousers.
Young women in dresses waded past their waists
barefoot into falling. Each fell, immersing
breathless in baptism.

I’ve stood with a shore’s congregation,
singing from a hymnal I held
that others didn’t need . . .

river where bright angel feet have trod,
with its crystal tide forever flowing
by the throne of God . . .

words rising as a world
taller than heartwood,
as though we called to angels flown

away to high and perfect thrones . . .

we are climbing Jacob’s ladder—we are climbing
higher, higher . . .

Each trunk climbed, aspiring
to outdistance, branches fanning
to crowd out
rival trees, greed reaching
to drink daylight.

Night sifts moonlight’s grays
down through branches’ deeper sheltering
of dark’s unseeable.

Into these later shadowings of trees,
gray forests swell out—float out—
for now, for me

as one page’s photograph, gray afterimage,
will float from a blur of pages turning,
flashing a book-bound history.


ii. Rememberer

I swipe at eye’s sweatdrop stinging.

The ghost book opens.

The night book’s spine

binds a blur through summer’s swelter
of night heat’s mind.

The pages whir, cascading. Cataract flash
of salt-burn’s eyelids flutter

as dreaming eyelids will flutter.

Grainy gray again

brightens to green, in sun.                     

In sunfall, shade of longleaf sways
dappling through the swaying
of wiregrass and bluestem,

forests falling into fields of sun-battered stumps.

Grain’s strength coils
from slow rooting, to topple
to coarse grain’s surge
of loblolly.

The grasses’ tall seedheads
plow under,
trunks lining tractors’ rows
of the crops of loblolly,

millennia hurrying
to board feet’s and sawdust’s
sudden economies.

Then shoreline’s pines breathe night,
their patience rooting
in the longevity
of my sweat-stung blinking.


iii. Oracle

Then my eyes clear.

In my hearing,

no cacophony of frogs
pulses night.

No owl’s husky notes
mark moments.

I think they call silence.
I think their hush

parts a way, opening.

I stand with pines

opening their commonness
of green, as each tree stands,
green shrine—

plain shrine among
plain shrines.

Wind will pour clearer than water.

Wind will rise again as the sound

of ocean, tidal, if only through
a shard of a forest,

needled branches of lost forests again
whispering unhearing wind’s

hymn of time like a pine
rocking heavy and high
through centuries.

The lake’s breadth wavers,
patting the shore, lapping

blurred syllables
whose quiet

recites me:

First night washed out
to a world swimming

into the sheen
of stars through darkness.

Each pine rises, each axis
revolving the stars.

The branches open
as bones of wings, where

they climbed. They hover,
risen into waiting.

Roots seep through soil,
burrowing to water.

Mud’s bed like hands
cups the lake’s water.

I pass the leaning
chair of a lifeguard,

boards born from the being
of roots drinking, sap rising,

nails rusting in a ladder’s
dry stigmata.

Rungs remain waiting
for no future climber.

My walking becomes
the feel of the cool.

I walk through my being
held in beholding.

Dark’s shimmer dimples
like woodgrain quickening.

I enter, wading naked
through water’s waver,

to push out, feeling
feet glide from mud.

Lake’s nakedness offers
flight lifting through water.

Gleaming arms rear
on sinews of shoulders

rounding to crash down,
churning in bubbles.

Torso’s warmth
rides the wingbeats

in sheen of starlight’s
bodiless eon.

Joined feet batter
the surface that shatters.

The coolness surrenders
a body to baptism.

An absolution
is branches, mud, water.

Arms oar origins
from water, through water.

A self ripples rings
widening as worldself.

I ride the feeling
of the will of a vigil,

palms arcing down
as though to catch rungs

hidden in water—
shouldering farther—

arms feeling arms row
scattering shower—

winging with water.




Note: Of the vast, lost Southern forests, Lawrence S. Earley wrote in Looking for Longleaf, “Almost all of the old-growth pine forest is gone − perhaps 12,000 acres remain in scattered stands. By any measure, longleaf’s decline of nearly 98 percent is among the most severe of any ecosystem on earth.” Dan and Ellen Corrie have planted 60 acres of longleaf pine and native understory on their South Georgia farm. 


Daniel Corrie’s poetry has appeared in The Hudson Review, The Nation, Southern Review, and Virginia Quarterly Review. A poem of his received the 2011 Morton Marr Award from The Southwest Review.

Longleaf pine photo courtesy Shutterstock.

  1. Thanks for the sharp and moving poetry–and what is poetry to do but to sharpen and move us?

  2. What a wonderful treat it was to sit with Suzanne on a pleasant evening with the sound of a woodpecker drumming through our open window, while hearing our friend’s voice reciting lines like “A self ripples rings widening as worldself,” in such a gently resonant tone. What deeply reverent memories of that bygone natural treasure.
    Fine job, Dan!
    Beautiful reading of a haunting poem, Dan. “…no cacophony of frogs pulses night. / No owl’s husky notes mark moments.” So moving!

  3. A very moving poem, especially–I think–in that hallucinatory third section. The first section seems to me to encompass, express, and extoll a personal nostalgia for a lost landscape, while the second laments, more elegiacally, the felled longleaf pines reduced “to board feet’s and sawdust’s / sudden economies.” But it is the third section that through its strong, dimeter rhythm and insistent rhyming carries this reader with the swimming poet into a bodily oneness with nature through water. One of the more lyric evocations of that otherworldly place that swimming “au naturel” can sometimes propel one into! While there’s a political eco-message here, it’s the poetry–the insistent sway of incantatory syllables–that transports.

  4. What a beautiful poem by Daniel Corrie, and his reading of it is not simply mesmerizing but sacred. The range of Corrie’s poem is exhilarating, stunning. He fully and unerringly captures a moment while casting his net wide and snaring all of world and time in a blissful crucible. This meditation is replete with love — you can hear the love in every line — and the poem rekindles all the love I’ve ever felt for the Southern landscape of longleaf pine, which continues to occupy a great deal of my imagination. Thank you, terrain.org, not only for publishing “Swimming at Night” but also giving us the superb recording of the poet reading. I was transported, to say the least. Thank you.

  5. A particularly sensitive and powerful poem, I particularly like how the immersion in the landscape is internalized here.

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