Lake Lerna

Ellen Welcker

I have pulled the reeds. They snap at a joint at the surface so their roots stay intact, send up a new shoot pronto. Spread the black plastic and covered it with bark chips. Already it becomes again the swamp the reeds will flourish in. It’s cloth. I’m not a monster.

We are sitting at the entrance to the underworld. We talk about dinner. We talk about fourth grade. We talk about running. We talk about rivers. We are the river people, we say, though tides swell in us declaratively.

I haven’t pull up all the reeds. I pulled some up and then I came inside. I did something else and then I did something else. I start everything.

A little bitty smoke smell brings apocalyptic wildfire feelings but I stay the course. I cinch in little chokes, all day I cinch and cinch.

The ocean says it’s just gonna be what it is and then it’s not. Her virulent blood. But the shore, the shore has after.

The shore explains how he has split into a double shore, one who reaches for the waves and one who just grinds glass.

You only want to know what you need to know right now. You want me to stop them from telling you more.

I am your river and can hold the rest for you.  

You are so good at telling me exactly what you need.

I am an oxbow, good at making room, which is not what you need.

I have said no dichotomy but sometimes yes. I am always on my way. The swamp again tries to take my body from me.

I am your river. Your river. Your river.

Did you know the umbilicus is the last to burn, says one casually—I’m talking pyres of course.

You know what they say, says another, it’s not that we’re learning how to live, but that we’re thirsty.

I help the children. I write the poems. I bring forth the mutants. I have never known how to take up space. I have never tried to waste anyone’s time.

In the middle of an arroyo I remember I once had a cowbell to ring if I needed help.

Would that help?

Some rain falls, and the river all night.

You feel for your pulse. You feel for your pulse. You feel and feel and feel for your pulse. I have been shrugging this off. Your heart is doing a great job.

Is it doing a great job? Google 2am indications of stream contamination.

Do you just need me to tell you every once in a while?


Try to remember: there might not be anything wrong with you.

At the end say ‘promise.’

When you say you want to die you feel like you do, but later you don’t, so that’s a lie. Karma is like a magic that’s listening. You’re going to, then. To die.

You are asking day and night, now, every few minutes, assaulting me with your fears, my ‘promise’ your momentary balm.  It would be funny if it wasn’t.

Ocean doesn’t die. It just fills with jellyfish. And the river with poisonous breath.

You don’t understand your body, it’s perfect machinery, and I am sick. Sick of you asking, sick of answering, my feeble attempts at complexity and honesty no match for your fear. I am sick of children, their utter dependence on the world to care for them and it doesn’t.

The phone rings twice I am running, sockless
and wet, the sleeping houses
flashing red, the heaving engine idles red and it’s red in the hall, red in
the kitchen, red
the toilet and I

I wait a long time before deciding to flush:
are they in there or together, are they yet, or ever
they will be. Or are.

Already I mythologize them. Apologize them. Not knowing isn’t not.
Or ever.

We will never reach bottom.

Heavy rain makes a pointillism of the lake. Clay covered snakes writhe in the path. The day suddenly streaming with all the water, all the water, all the water.

Originally published in Moss: Volume Five.
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