by Penelope Moffet
Shallow Sierra lake more sun-warmed than most
though still fed by snow-melt. Maybe mild in summer
but not in late September, sun ready to go down,
water mirroring trees and mountains. I edge in,
feet sliding over stones and muck, skin
cringing into liquid cold enough to form another skin.
He says to himself, “Am I doing this?
All right, I think I’ll just jump in,”
and goes in fast. Self-preservation keeps
my head dry though I want to do what he does,
free-style. Five minutes and we shiver onto shore.
He says his brain is frozen but his injured knee
thanks him for the cold. The mirror we broke reforms.
Coots and mallards groom away our ruckus, dive.
PHOTO: Manzanita Lake, near North Fork, California. Photo by Penelope Moffet, used by permission.
NOTE: Manzanita Lake is a small, manmade lake in Central California, near the town of North Fork. Dating from the early 1940s, during the development of hydro-power, Pacific Gas & Electric owns the facilities and administers the area, which is surrounded by land administered by the Sierra National Forest. With 26 surface acres and an average depth of 6.5 feet, the lake is situated at 2,900 feet in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains.
NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: In September 2019, I traveled for two weeks in Northern California, staying whenever possible near lakes I could swim in. The last stop was North Fork, near Yosemite National Park. My airbnb host told me about Manzanita Lake, a small body of water not far away, so when my friend Elliott Almond came to visit I told him we had to go swim in that lake. It was the shortest swim of the trip, as the high-altitude water was cold at the end of September. Nevertheless, it remains a happy memory.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Penelope Moffet is a Southern California writer whose work has been published in many literary journals, including Silver Birch Press. She is the author of two chapbooks, most recently It Isn’t That They Mean to Kill You (Arroyo Seco Press, 2018). She has work upcoming in Verse-Virtual, Gleam, and Sheila-Na-Gig.