"Daybreak" by Andrew Gottlieb, Artist-in-Residence

A large lake with flat water and a distant shore
Flat as a Floor

NPS/Katie Keller

Early as shapes emerge gray after black.
The lake is flat as a floor, and your paddle
butters water as you push your canoe
from a muddy shore with your pack, your boots
and your hope for a loon or a moose.
The bow turns clear glass smeary. The try
in your bicep is an ache that makes you grateful,
and you glance back for what you know is coming,
the first orange smolder of day, a promise
that’s still surprise. On Tobin Harbor’s north
shore, far in the fence of pine mining the ridge
root-deep and thick, a quick wolf-cry.
You pause the wood blade high. An echo
and an answer, and you picture the paws
prowling pack-wise, a pant of animal, fur-white
and tired. You glide in a listen. Silence
again. Back in your cabin, on a rock at the desk,
a cling of float copper sheathed in greens
and blacks but gleaming in the shiny wrinkle
where the plier’s eye crimped through corrosion.
Greenstones in a pile. All best things are accidental
finds. Three spiders and their webs, insects
you think of as friends because they sit and wait
as you do over thin paper, pale and blank,
strung out in lines, dreaming food.
You will root all day for clumsy flies.
You push your blade against the lake and gaze
again to see the first light shy and bare.
Shapes define as shadows stretch and blacken.
Suddenly color runs from everything on shore.
The whole day is coming to you, fresh and lit:
gerens, blues, and reds as beautiful and wet
as meadows fat with bent goldenrod, clover,
and streams of seeded grass freckled and dewy
with white water dropped and heating like speckled
beads of yellow light waiting to burst and shine.

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Last updated: December 16, 2019

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