Today's poem is by Charles Rafferty

"The Man Waiting for the Lake To Still"

It is cloudless and moonless and breezeless—
a night of deficiencies he has grown
to love. He has rowed himself out
in the only canoe left unchained beside the lake
that in summer was full of motorboats
and bikinis and sweating beers. It's November now,
and he's made his way to a corner
of the lake where there aren't any
houses along the shore, or else
their lights are off and everyone is curled
into their dreamless wine. He is waiting
for the boat to still itself. The stars are
blue and sparking, as if someone had
shotgunned the air with light. It's all
in the lake beneath him too, making him feel
like someone slipped him inside an envelope
of infinity—like he's about to be delivered.
But the canoe keeps vibrating—
the water dripping from the oar is enough
to turn the lake pure black, to obliterate
the frozen stars that story his night
with monarchs and dogs. His shivering
doesn't help matters. It's only in the distance
that the world is sufficiently still to echo
that blueness back. He statues there for hours,
refusing to drift, overhearing the migration
of Canada geese blotting the stars
above him and below—a darkness
that is desperate to find someplace to stall,
to crash upon clear water that is welcoming and still.

"The Man with a Boat at the Bottom of the Lake"

It was a small boat. It had kissed some rocks
and grown unbalanced. It ended
belly-up in the clear waters
of the after-storm, the ivory hull
shining faintly as a dream
five minutes after waking at a depth
of twenty feet. He likes to swim
above it, to inspect it—sometimes
with the clear eyes of a mask
tightened to his face, sometimes
with the blurred intimacy
of his eyes pressed into the lake.
Some days he sits on the rocks
that sank her—gathering heat
from the sun before plummeting in.
He's thought about going down all the way.
He started to once but he felt
his ears cracking. He knows
he could get there quickly by hugging
a boulder and diving from a raft,
but he worries about the speed
of floating back empty-armed.
Thus, the things he once imagined saving
remain on the bottom. They might as well
be sand: his fishing tackle,
the decorative anchor, the name
on the side the same as the girl he used
to love, the strangled motor
that growled when he told it to, the feel
of the wheel within his hands that threatened
to take him anywhere he looked
on that vast and glittering lake—
a world so bright he could only see it
by almost closing his eyes.

Copyright © 2011 Charles Rafferty All rights reserved
from The Literary Review
Reprinted by Verse Daily® with permission

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