On the day the beaches open,
A girl is swept away.
The lake takes her in its
Cold grip. One moment
Giggling on a stony promontory
That juts out as if to say
Look there: the waves are mustering
Like soldiers in white helmets.
Crashing with the sound of muskets
Or rifles or automatic weapons,
Reverberations from a hundred years
Of war and these girls, like refugees,
Cling to the barricades, but one
Can’t hold, and crying, she rides out
On the riptide, bobbing, then
Disappearing, to be found later
In the depths, not yet floating
As the drowned do at last,
Gasses ballooning the body
The waves boom like cannon;
It is still too cold for swimming,
But the day itself is warm,
Full of sunlight glinting like bullets
On the blue shield of water. Sunbathers
Stretch on stone slabs like
Sacrifices to the gods of lake and sky.
Taken so casually, one moment
A cluster of girls plotting new joys,
The next a flurry of barnacled hands
Clutching the edges, struggling to rise
Scraped and bleeding, but one gone,
Gone as if chosen, some would insist,
As if there was a message inherent,
The way the preacher proclaims
Over the graves of the fallen.
When the land gaped, a horse fell in
As if a genie opened a door. That was one story.
A parking lot is graded, an addition added
And the earth falls away to a maze of passages
Stalactites hung up like swords, blind fish, cave bats.
Limestone or onyx. Porous or fragile as a fingernail.
A girl in rappelling gear all straps and buckles descends
Into a bottomless pit. The maw exudes a damp
Chill of foreboding. Light the way. Two hundred steps
Narrowing like forgiveness. A cavern vast as an oracle
Glistening and dripping with omens. Time exposed in layers
Of crustaceans. Consider the horse, how it flailed and whinnied,
Engulfed in the darkness of legend that begins with happenstance.
Crossing the road, a gaggle
Of Canada geese; in their midst
A big white goose clearly enjoying
Escape from domesticity.
The harvest table
For which she was fattened
To crust golden on a platter.
Head and shoulders above this mob,
Scuttling to glean the scraped field,
When they lift up to wing
For a nearby pond, she stands
Honking, earthbound, in her heavy cape,
Bred for the knife and fork.