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On the Lake

I saw him, you say

I saw him drown

but I didn’t turn around.

While this sinks to the bottom of my mind

I watch you.

What good can come of this?


It’s end of life, you say

The end craves its confession.

Maybe I just want to be free of it.

I nod, understanding (or maybe I don’t)

A life, underpinned by one thing

is on the rocks, sliding

with me chained to the reins.


I was so young then

not frightened, perhaps

but afraid to miss out.

A body like that can pull you under

The panic claws at your breath

demands just one thing: Life.


What if I couldn’t hold him?

The surface seemed endless

the shore; the salvation, a hallucination.

I swam, my strokes breaking the water

then ran for freedom

only to be trapped inside my mind.


One afternoon on the lake

One boy – only – returned

One boat, never reclaimed

One life went on

One life, lost, the remnants found.


Two boys disappeared that day

but one went on living

Some fifty years later

you showed me his grave

I didn’t know, wasn’t prepared.

Two parents reunited with their son

The stillness, the insignificance of the place:

A mockery to the impact of the event.


You left one thing out, I say, later

Startling the silence.

You’re asleep, perhaps no longer listening

If not for you, I wouldn’t be

Maybe you swam to save me

Maybe you saw something good

(I hope).


Who is to say what lies beneath a life

what lies what guilt what shame

that prop it up.

Only if it breaks, will it seep out

It’s the silence we should fear.

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