At a Certain Depth of Water–Matt Daly
“At a certain depth of water,” my son says this morning,
“I turn into a dolphin.” He is talking about his swimming lesson
but I see we are also face-to-face with werewolves,
how little say we have in what we become.
I want to explain to him how all of us transform
many times: I turned into a white room with a blue ceiling
once; I became a bear, charging my human body
with what ferocity and terror I could imagine.
Morning sun pushes the last chill of night
through the open window and over us. I want to warn him
stillness and clarity break in shimmers as the softest movement
of air to the surface of a pond.
Instead I say to him, “One hot evening long before I met your mother,
I saw dolphins leaping in the bay beyond Yelapa.
One by one they turned into sky.”
All the while I think of my high school principal’s son who,
one night full of rainclouds, turned into Seattle.
No one ever heard from him again. I keep this to myself:
once moonlight reaches a certain depth of water,
it turns into what we all turn into, not an animal body.
No magic, not even a silver bullet or a dawn without wind,
can stop our shapes from shifting.
I want to tell my son he will find depths to plumb
under every surface, skies beyond all clouds, but when he sees
the moon above the western hills refuse to dive
away from dawn, I whisper,
“Let’s go to the smooth rock beach today. We can wade
in shallow water, look for colorful stones.”