Posts Tagged ‘lake’

Understanding the Self

The lake is a good example, perhaps.
Though invasive plants grow
along the shore, though
it is adorned with new piers,
though boats float upon it
and fish swim in it,
the lake is not any of these things.
Whatever is lake is still lake.
Even if you pour dye into it
and it changes color.
Even if weeds grow from the bottom
or algae blooms on the top.
And though we might call it
by different names, those names
are just strings of syllables.
The lake is still the lake.
The self is like a lake.
Though we try to label it
baker or banker or mother or cop,
should any of these labels change
the self is still the self.
Though it wears brown boots
or flip flops or goes barefoot.
Though the hair grows long
or the nails are short.
Whether its days seem perfect
or full of mistakes.
The self is the self, unperturbable.
Like a lake.

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Tucked in my mind’s back pocket
is that evening when I ran full speed
off the end of the pier

and leapt fully dressed into the water.
The air in my clothes buoyed me for a moment
before swirling around me like a purple bloom—

and the heavy sun was orange and low,
and the water held me, refreshed me,
stole my breath for a moment,

then gave me back the gift of my breath,
only deeper, fuller, a bloom in my body.
Oh the freedom—how easy it felt to be alive,

to be afloat, to be enwombed by the world.
Everything felt right. Everything felt yes.
Sometimes, like now, when worry polishes my thoughts,

I dip a toe into that pocket and feel the splash on my skin,
hear the water lapping against the buoys, the pier.
Sometimes, like now, I jump in and swim there

long enough that when I return to this chair, this room,
I find the faint lake scent lingering in my hair,
my face still wet.

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            for Jennifer and Jennifer

And once again I am twenty-four
and I walk out the door
of our master’s exam and meet
my classmates down by the lake
and the day is hot and we drink cold beer
until we think jumping off the end
of the pier is a great idea, so
we kick off our shoes and run fully dressed
to the edge and launch and splash
and swim until we arrive at a party barge
full of men who pull us dripping
and life-giddy into their midst
and we do shots of something
that blissfully burns before laughing we
return to the open lake and side stroke back
to the shore where nothing’s the same
as it was before, though it still looks the same—
metal chairs still orange, our hair still brown,
the humid sky hazy, loud cheers all around—
but our lives will soon hurl us
in different directions—
to lovers and children and unanswerable
questions where the real tests cannot
be studied for with friends, and life’s master’s
degree doesn’t end till life ends, but oh,
for those few moments on the terrace,
soaking and shivering and whooping in glee,
my god, we were free, we were free, we were free.

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If you watch the heron as it stalks

amongst the tall green reeds, then pauses,

and in its pausing disappears, then you understand

something of the power of stillness.


And if you, yourself, are still long enough

to see the head of the snapping turtle

rise between the lily pads,

then you glean something of the rewards

that come with sitting still.


But if you sit expecting such rewards,

then perhaps sit longer and watch the cattails

as they waver and still, sway and still and still,

and feel how the urge in you to say something rises

and softens and softens until there is nothing to say,


until that kind of stillness becomes

the greatest reward, until you feel

stillness hold you the way the lake

holds the lily pad, the way

the silence holds a song.



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in a blue boat





on the lake

I whisper




that voices


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