blackbird online journal spring 2002 vol.1 no. 1



Under the Volente Raft

Jack, I’m watching you lurk there, under the raft.
You’ve put on a kelp wig. You’re champing
for minnows and little children,
trying not to laugh. The lake is yellow
and boomplash, yellow and boomplash,
yellowrush, greenrush and lurking.

You palm the surface drip of sweet
underbelly wood, cedar bell,
head a wooden duck, a lure in the late
afternoon sun where you struggle
across the buoy line and bob there
at the boundaries of ding, ding!

You thrash rings around me, gasping
shark attack music. You’ve inhaled
the whole lake and you’re sputtering
like an old boat, all warm
and yellow and obvious there.

Then, further down, your torso hangs white,
a ghost radish cast in gelatin and sawed
at the shoulders where we go under
and swim into quivering spotlights, shout
show tunes in garbled mer-speak, and then

the under, where we’d rather not, where
you drop to with high velocity, where
the lungs explode and it gets green
and tastes different, like a mineral fist,
toes just touching that cold vein, and then

the true bottom, to which we have lost
twenty pairs of sunglasses this summer,
and horrible because we cannot see it,
and quivering up from there sometimes,
a single stream of bubbles

like something alive down there and
more evolved than us, something backstroking
through battlefields of mirrors and frames
and broken arms, singing something precious
and ominously off-key and a bit out of date:
the Carpenter’s Close to You.

The tune wavers up through the striations
of greenrush sun and sonorous echo boomplash,
bursting gasp at our elbows as we say
it’s just a stupid swimming race,
this cold fear marrow grip, this flesh struggle—
this grapple to get back to land. 

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