Three Lakes

Jean Sprackland

I

The lake had been drained that night
and filled with sky instead.

We stood on the jetty
as if on a summit, looking down
on a fathomless depth of cloud.

Sky overhead,
sky at our feet

like deep past
and deep future

and we stood halfway between.

It was one ten in the morning.
I can’t remember who stood there with me.

II

Its green complacency makes him cruel.
He tramps the shoreline, glaring at reflections,
demanding to see some depth for Christ’s sake.

A breeze raises temporary frowns
like a dream creasing a smooth brow.
It’s all surface! Doesn’t know how to suffer

like a tree split open by lightning,
a field ploughed and left undone in the rain.
Nothing here but elegant dimples and ripples,

a conceited little repertoire
of sucking and slapping sounds.
And whatever he does, he can’t seem to wound it –

a rock makes only brief scattering circles;
heave in a shopping trolley, an old fridge,
it heals around, through, over.

But drive into the shallows and open the sump
and the oil spreads and sheens
into sudden rainbows. He sees at once

this is love not hate after all.
Shuddering he strips and parts the lake.
His feet find sharp and slippery mysteries

as he flails from the bank
and makes for open water,
the slick of fridge coolant and dead oil.

III

You jolt awake from the dream of your life,
gasping at the here-and-now.
Stones underfoot then mud then nothing.
You’re fastened in a heavy collar of ice.
The water slakes its thirst on your blood-warmth.

That may not be weed brushing your thigh.
Under this green lid, a lost topography
of caves and thickets, tenanted by ancients.
The drowned swimmer the locals speak of,
still clutching his letters of introduction.

Perfect sky: low and smoky with rain.
The lake bruised and choppy, a nervous current.
You shove against it, knowing you’re alive,
knowing that someday soon you’ll die.
You open the surface a moment, it shuts behind you.