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The Lake

by Chard deNiord


He had already begun to cross over
and see things from the other side of his room.
He was already flying with invisible wings
in his chair, staring ahead as I wheeled him
into the hall. “Where would you like to go?”
I asked. “I’ll take you anywhere.”
                                                                      “Outside,”
he said, as if outside were everywhere
he’d ever been and wanted to return to
again and again. It was late April—warm
and clear. I rolled him out the door at the end
of the hall and into the sky. All winter long
he’d been breathing the same recycled air
inside his cinder block room, so even
though his senses were dull and his mind half gone,
he could smell the lilacs and hear the birds call out
to each other their various fricative songs.

“Shall we go for a swim?” he asked, gazing at the field
outside his room. He saw the lake on which he’d lived
instead of the field and wanted to go in. He saw
the sun shining on the rye as it waved in the breeze
to him to also wave. “Yes!” I said. “Yes.”
I struggled in vain to hold him down by the handles
of his chair, feeling him rise like a swing that wouldn’t
come down, no matter how hard I pressed against
the ground. No no’s anymore to anchor him here.

“Dive off the end,” he said. “I’ll follow you in.”

To which I almost said yes again but refrained
this time because I couldn’t find the tone
anymore to sound like the boy who had just jumped
in; because only he could see the veil
that lay before him as a lake expanding into
a sea I couldn’t see but only hear
in the distance as its waves pounded the shore and then
receded beneath his chair into the vast
from which they came like hands and then returned.

 

Chard deNiord is the poet laureate of Vermont and the author of six books of poetry, most recently, Interstate (The University of Pittsburgh Press, 2015) and The Double Truth (Pittsburgh, 2011). His new book of interviews with nine contemporary poets is forthcoming from Pittsburgh Press this month under the title I Would Lie To You If I Could. He is professor of English and creative writing at Providence College and a trustee of the Ruth Stone Trust. He lives in Westminster West, Vermont, with his wife, Liz. (5/2018)


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