Northern Lake

/ /

The early days of summer have nothing
to lose. After months of stringent thrift,
the light squanders itself and promises
still greater prodigality tomorrow.
Like young dogs the hours run hard
and roll in the grass after breakfast.
When they lie down and pant
on the dock, the whole lake turns choppy
and raw. I shut and I open my eyes.
The sky is the pale blue of blood
under skin and as its brightness strikes
the water something shatters, continues
shattering, soundlessly, weightlessly, over
and over. It’s the law that says energy,
in its changes, remains a constant value.
In such moments the shine dunks itself
in the water, goes all the way under.
It picks and smooths out every knot
and wet wrinkle. It sheathes each minnow
in a little cape of fresh fire—the light,
in its entirety, spreading through
this soft lapping, so much light pouring
into the lake that by logic the long sky
should darken. But no, on the surface
nothing is lost, every watt is accounted for.
If anything, the air’s brilliance also increases:
new facets, new feathers, new layers.

It’s the same way when the truth
is spilled through a clear pool of language.
I saw the phenomenon again, or read it,
just last night—first time in a long time.
Elisabeth slept beside me. My book rested
on my chest in the dim, orange aureole shed
by the bedside lamp. It started happening
on the page: instantaneous, in retrospect,
though it took some while for my mind
to perceive it—as when light fills a volume
of water. Swimming, I shut and I opened
my eyes. The full girth of the truth
submerged itself. Weightless, soundless,
it wasn’t the words, but it was in the words
so fully the lake rose a foot and a half
to slosh over its banks. The language
held all of it, and yet it was in me also.
Inner irons straightened my hair.
My fingernails lengthened. Nor had truth
diminished elsewhere. The soft world
held more of it having spent some
into ink, into marks on an off-white page
in a very still bedroom sometime after ten.
Physics just silently whined in a corner
like a dog who’s been shamed and deserves it,
and the night, for some reason, was shorter
imperceptibly, imperceptibly warmer,
the way it always is in the early summer.