Zini chases the edges, like the elders had instructed.
Everything moved as one as she slipped across the waters.
The river so wide as a lake out here, far from town.
Zini’s town of bamboo rafts and shacks floats silent
off in the rounded distance, at the edges of her eyes.
She follows slow-spreading green round a rocky bend.
A water skater, a river chaser, she-who-belongs.
How easy it is when you can!
Wide flapped froggy feet fold up down the center,
thin black legs stab into the wet, push against,
jam her spindly body the otherwise, setting up
a falling slice from that side’s folded flipper.
Nothing compares to water skating,
the concentration of never-hating.
On and on she flies, forgetting everything but
her motion, calm, the swoosh of her water strikes.
Deep inside, pushing out from within, searching
for the edges, to stay within yet go beyond,
to chase the edges, catch the light, know all joy.
The village out of sight when she unfolds her flipper feet
and skids to a spraying stop, standing breathless on wide
strange crinkling river flowing to a sea she’s never seen.
On the banks the wood people gather timber in their way,
many on the lines and one flailing at the base with
two hatchets, steel glinting in a blur of passion.
A youth rests upon a rock, his short legs crossed.
She waves her thin webbed hand, he, long arm already
as thick as her torso, waves a broad flat hand.
A strange people, strong, swift in the trees,
but slow and clumsy on ground and water.
Not unpleasant, but a bit dull, divided
as they are from the magic of the river.
And, though it’s undignified to dwell
upon such matters, rather unsightly:
covered in coarse orange-brown hairs
everywhere except on their big round faces.
But, of course, it isn’t their fault
that they’re neither beautiful nor fit
to run the rivers.
One should rather focus on gratitude
for the wonderful blessing of belonging
to those who rule the rivers,
who travel to the sea.
At dinner Mama wonders what Zini’s seen and heard.
A squick-squick bird diving beneath the water
coming up empty-beaked.
The wood people hunting timber.
Waterhoops rolling wild–she had to jump over them.
Father shakes his head.
When will the council address this matter?
The waterhoops are outgrabe!