Poetry Month: A Letter on the Lake (Dennis)

A Letter on the Lake

You don’t know me but you must have seen me reading
On the dock facing yours across the inlet,
The gawky woman in the bright green straw hat
With plastic flowers, the neighbor
You never invited to your lawn parties,
Though not all your guests were graceful, I noticed,
And some were new-comers here, not friends.

Now that the season’s over I can tell you
I think you lost as much as I have.
Others might have seen my flowery hat as a challenge
To reach beyond mere taste as their measure of the world,
To be true to the oath they swore when they were younger:
To teach when they couldn’t learn;
To inspire when they weren’t inspired.

You might have taken me out once on your boat.
When you spotted something far out on the water
And called to the crew, “Look there,”
I’d have looked the hardest,
I’d have been the one, seeing no cloud or sea speck,
To turn back to watch you,
Your eyes still fixed, arm still pointing,
The dropping as a flag drops when the wind dies.

I’d have listened when you tried to explain
What it was; I’d have tried to picture it,
Something more vivid than a flag
Or sea cloud, more likely to live
Longer in memory, if not forever.

– Carl Dennis, in The Bread Loaf Anthology of Contemporary American Poetry (eds. Robert Pack, Sydney Lea, Jay Parini)

Read more at The Poetry Foundation. Dennis writes about how he writes in a post at How a Poem Happens.


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