Water Rituals

_(for N.G.)_
My daughter stands on the banks of a river,
slow and meandering on the surface,
but snarled below with deadheads
and undercurrents. She takes off
the bones of my life draped so lovingly
over her shoulders, hangs them
on the branches of a tree to dry
and twist into driftwood. She wants
to make her own mistakes, to dive in
naked, find her ground and let the river
clothe her, swim the river in herself.
I have my own water rituals, a lake
so deep you can’t always find bottom.
Occasionally, those missing for years
will float to the surface, recognizable
as the day they leapt from the bridge.
No one knows why they sink so far,
why the tension cutting the lake into cold
and warm, holds and preserves them.
When they come back to us, we say
the lake has turned, given up
its dead, given us back to ourselves.

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