The House by the Lake


Back to soapy hands in the dishwater beneath the window, the trees beyond, wet
with darkness. Behind that porch, this house silently waits. Only the hands of aging
winds have the patience to have warped those boards.
Back to that room where the lights traveled sleeplessly across the wall. Now
darkness covers the barn’s wings, a wheel turning inside you.
A lamp and a loaf of bread. It’s the same window, yet now the smell of snow and a
horse breaking ice on the farm pond.
But it’s never the right wilderness until you’ve crossed it.
If you walk in a snowstorm long enough, its light becomes your light. That caul of
snow the secret religion of crows and the tiny branched gossip of sparrows.
And somewhere in Iowa this year’s only albino ground squirrel turns the wrong
way to escape an ordinary death.
In Georgia, evangelists have taken yes and no hostage. Fortunately, their demands
cannot be met.
A proverb about this has vanished, set to music in Canada, composed below zero.
Back to that house by the lake. Back to your future. Back to the possible and back
to the hostage under the porch.
And like any man and woman, the three of us dine together. Imagine truffles and
partridge and some medieval delicacy with a white heart, the path always falling away.

The seasons change on the river of the tongue. It could be anywhere, but it isn’t, the
warm water lapping at the edge of his sleeve.
Back to your castle in the air, breathing. Back to a glass of warm milk steaming on
a blue table. Back to water birds like sexual whimpers scrabbling after a child’s offering
of bread warmed by anxious hands, taut voices strung on the cold air, all the angels
decaying in the storehouse, certain possibilities swallowed by the smell of bread.
Don’t bother with anger. No argument of fists ever held water. The past always
awaits our return to a life so internalized it seems to manufacture its own rust.
If you hear a river singing, drink it, drink the ropes running through its shaggy
light, running through the slow animal heart beneath the green hull of its sleep.

Such a child might meet himself in a dark alley and think himself harmless and
worse, be right. But each invisible railroad tie weathers differently, like we do, one step closer to somewhere else.
The crooked shadows of tree limbs harsh against the breaking snowmelt of the
path, the black flute of its moonlight drowned.
Perhaps you wanted to be held by it.
The only one of us who never betrayed that child doesn’t know it.
Like the ogre in the legend of the catfish, you have forgotten.
But so many things have not.
Farther up the slope, above the innocent duck pond, in the clearcut wound of the
weathered landskin, a seabird perches on a rotting stump, a kind of totem for old brown
animals and thick sleep. Inside the stump sleeps a misplaced memory of a large slow
farmer scratching his codpiece in a field of potatoes.
Back to the rotting mounds of fur lumped on the prairie like one great wrinkled
beast about to rise and lumber to the end of its long and ending days, a host of human
scavengers riding its pelt over one final cliff, one world falling off the edge of another.

In a dream you are searching for a hammer. Someone has eaten it. You want to
pound on your clothes. You want to make them talk. You want to carry on a conversation
with someone else’s sweat. You want to say something simple to a saw.
Icicles white as teeth in the porch’s mouth. Each one contains a world within a
world. In one, crimson fish swim in the yellow coral. In another a child feeds warm
bread to the ducks.
And so, my little cancers, we come to our game of backhands, crying “Kiss me!”
And the darkness splits open, dripping saints. There’s a pebble in your mouth, the hungry
tunnel of aging.
So we apologized for the palaces between the stems of water lilies deep inside an
icicle in one of our deaths. We were sorry about corncribs and dovewood and the beauty
of disinterest among trees, as they refuse to be anything but trees.
Then, under a red moon, we visited our garden of bones. Wind carried this death in
its wings and rose, listening for the screams of hawks and loons, listening for the song of the air.

And finally, here there is nothing, not even the past, no friends in the creaking
hinges, no memories of snowstorms in the summer heat, no house by the lake.
Take a deep breath. It is almost ready to sing.

Rich Ives is the author of Tunneling to the Moon: A Psychological Gardener’s Book of Days currently being published in serial @ Silenced Press everyday in 2014 and forthcoming in paperback. Begin from the beginning, catch up, read daily. Just refer to the Burrow Guide.