early memory at Crystal Lake

Untied, a woven

cotton bathing suit

slips to the floor

around my feet,

red, ruffled

like a rose.

Mother creams

my sunburned shoulders

and I lie tenderly back

in the big bed,

stare up

at bare wood rafters

enlarged by lamplight.

She will leave,

I alone of the family

upstairs, under the sheet

white as fear.

If only

the shadowy rafters

looked kindly down

like the oaks and birches

above our earlier walk

to the big lake,

my hand in hers

past fusty porches,

past Frostic’s musical

gate of art and mystery,

past the assembly hall’s

black windows,

into the sunny circle of ferns

and off with sneakers!

a race up the short dune

in blind anticipation

and sand as fine and cool

as mother’s face powder.

Up, over and running free

to the blue water

that is like a deeper sky

for me to fly in,

waves whispering


hush, come

until exhausted

I give up

and sit on the beach, shivering,

burning, sand blowing

against my cheeks

like mother’s good-night kisses,

her freshly washed skin

white, smooth, her fragrance

of sweet water

receding from me,

always calling and receding

in whispering waves.


Ruth Mowry grew up in a Baptist preacher’s home and always wondered if there might not be a deeper spiritual calling than the religious teachings surrounding her. In the middle of her own family life with her husband and two children she returned to university to complete her undergraduate degree in English, and discovered poetry writing. This exploration coincided with departure from church, and it was through that separation and writing that the spiritual work began afresh, so maybe it is not surprising that writing has become her spiritual practice. 

Today much of her writing launches from the rural Michigan setting where she lives with her husband, finding in nature a replenishing life source for the spiritual journey. Ruth’s poems have been published in a few print and online journals. She blogs at washed stones 

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