A Lake Sequence
Hear me, Lord, please contain me.
I was in flames the time you poured
the wind down through the cradles
of my blue ears, when you rattled
the brittle palms lovely in my ears.
My vision lay on the slender reeds
you had stoked into the lighted mud.
I saw the stirred wind split and bend
those lighted reeds along the shore.
Thereafter they sizzled in that place.
The lake swirled in my human eyes,
the whitecaps on the lake ruffled along.
The sun splashed its concentrated pink
on the soothing water and I thanked
you; the painted turtle surfaced at once
to breathe. Blue storm clouds formed.
Along the shore sunken lilies surfaced
casually into view, and their covenant
with you was to flower after thunder
and catch the metallic drops of rain:
those changes now wildly under way
like offbeat tubas at a summer wake
where we mingle and shake hands
in a crowded room, the mirrors there
at times empty, then inflected suddenly
with the shapes of turquoise sails
tacking brightly on a windswept lake.
Should they race beyond those silver
worlds of glass, presume their speeding
bulls will shoal and crash into my flame
thrown center, and that I deeply loved
as anyone the body of my father’s
father, his unfeeling hands now still
and folded moist as lilies glistening
in the thinnest film of hallowed water.
Down the bank the peripheral surface
of the lake looks clear this summer,
if not kiln or oven hot then certainly
longer than most others I remember.
I cast here along the slope of daylong
brittle grass that candidly encircles
an element clear like glass or crystal,
but to my lure’s splashy touch much
softer, the tropical body of smooth
and landlocked water near my feet
becomes a lens if its top is shattered
at the opportune time and place,
(that being now and altogether clear
by where a monstrous green bass
just engulfed my floating bait),
and following that if l should kneel
in the quick of the light that permeates
all transparencies! And pray inwardly
there for a tree-flexed breeze to shake
the massive prism of the bitten lake.
Or I pray simpler still for running
time to stream into a braid of focus
in my mind, that daylong my mind
and hands create images if they can,
from water that shatters Florida, my land.
Those rotund sunfish all together
at the level of midwater look so still,
if not frozen altogether then delayed
in place above the light-struck weeds
and scattered bits of anchored shale.
Crystallized, breathing there, they work
the red and silver billows of their gills
until the fluid thoughts in me are still,
until the heated depths of me are still
like a waist-deep lake of translucent ice.
Father, I hadn’t a word to say.
Not when the slender flatworm
spurred me on; not the last time
she wriggled and slipped beneath
my skin; not even when my love
for her recoiled back to dance
in the blackest splotch of shade.
Principally, I was alone. I hid
and studied in my puzzled mind.
On my palms often lay a ruffled
bookful of begotten rhymes but
my heart was hard, I think; please
don’t nudge me as to why or why
my cane pole just caught the sun
and not a fish and burst into a stick
of yellow flames like wings in flight.
And, yes, I prefer to neither move
nor speak. Let the clustered sunfish
and the millennia of ancient spines
among the buried shale move or speak.
Later, much closer to the purple brink
of evening and dark, a milder change
slips out across the water when the wind
shifts: next to me the floating clusters
of the dockside lilies part, then push up
their fleshy yellow cups on slender stems.
In the neutral water-space beneath them
a school of silver shad flash deep and thick.
On the surface of my outstretched palm
glows the sharpened light of a silver hook.
And the way the white flamingos drip
and wade the glassy shallows of the lake,
who would watch them and hypothesize
but that light is what throws their shapes
onto the mirror of darkly lucid water?
Again the sun has lowered its flaming bulk
behind the trees. How long will the intricate
branches of my threadbare nerves unravel
like these ropes ofbraided willow leaves?
Where did the family of fuzzy ducklings go,
with their chirping beaks and little wings?
There hops the leopard frog, that wobbly
metal jewel. I gave him my expensive drugs
before he croaked, and leapt happily back
into the darker water near the weedy shore.
And my invisible copy just slipped from me.
His weeping extremities have never drooped
so low before; he attenuated his propinquity
to that towering purple cactus that some say
blossoms near the entrance of an invisible door.
—Scott Graham was born in Daytona Beach, Florida, in 1976. He has a creative writing degree from Emory and an MA in English from Florida State University. He currently teaches in the Department of Humanities and Social Science at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and is a faculty fellow at the NASA Langely Research Center in Hampton, Virginia.