Spatterdock Song · Gloria Monaghan

From 1822–1883, Francis Buchanan White collected several different species during the Challenger Expedition. Water spiders, water striders, water bugs, pond skaters, and water skippers (or Jesus bugs) belong to the class of true bugs, the Gerridae.

Near the small brown creek
water spiders jump from yellow water lilies,
their songs impossible to hear,

except for the slumbering bottom fish beneath
that interpret within dreams of mud and rust
moving to a slow rhythm current out of pipes,
whiskered and black, swimming beneath the quick
impermanent large-eyed diving bell silver spider
jumping from one green leaf to another.

By the edge of the water I follow your journey,
silent wish even through the culverts
eventually leaving, walking back up
to the cottage camp for girls
without windows, doors, or gates.

Dreaming of the buddy system in Port Huron and the shoreline,
water spiders jumping on the lily pads, creek dirt, fern,
with Camille in the tunnels that go between the creeks.

The sea glass glitters in the sand;
brown, green, white, and sometimes blue.
The rocks are mothers crying for their lost sons,
their hair fallen in the waves.


Gloria Monaghan is a Professor of Humanities at Wentworth Institute in Boston. She has published three books of poetry, Flawed (Finishing Line Press, 2011, nominated for the Massachusetts Book Award), The Garden (Flutter Press 2015), and False Spring (Adelaide Press, March, 2019). Her fourth book Hydrangea (Kelsay Press) is forthcoming. Nixes Mate recently published a chapbook, Torero, for its Fly Cotton Chapbook Series. Gloria's poems have appeared in Alexandria Quarterly, 2River, Adelaide, Aurorean, Chiron, Nixes Mate Review, First Literary Review East, among others. In 2018 her poem, “Into Grace” was nominated for the Pushcart Prize.