From: Branch Lines. Thistledown Press, 1982.
Tina comes down to the pumphouse by the river.
In a small backwater where heat is poured out from the generators
she watches him, the man she brought here with her.
He swims about lazily, with power, but she stays near the shore,
bobbing slowly up and down, letting herself in
each time only to her chin. She knows this place and how
the warmth ends suddenly, you stray a foot too far
and you're in freezing river water. As it
tumbles down to the shore behind her,
Tina starts to talk. Sometimes it's her father talking,
showing up again after a year or so, in need of money,
or her mother who never drank and always
covered her bruises, and loved her daughters
(and her god) so much she sent them away from it all
to convent schools where the nuns were no better,
strutting around all the time with canes. This
when Tina was 14. Tina had a child at 16, at 18
took too many pills. Now Tina is 21, has been in love
often. She wants not to trust this man, but who could blame her if she did.
And the man, he knows there's only so much he is capable of
giving, which he thinks of as being honest with her,
so he just listens and says nothing and keeps
paddling around, letting out sporadic yelps as he misjudges
the water for the tenth time, and watching
how she dips, each time, exactly to her chin. He is fascinated,
but Tina mostly stays in one place, never straying from the warmth,
not even after dark. It is a beautiful evening, quiet,
she thinks, and stays in one place. Instinctively
she knows the boundaries.