At the Lake with Audrey and Anna Patricia Mickelberry Poetry

local_library At the Lake with Audrey and Anna

by Patricia Mickelberry

Published in Issue No. 56 ~ January, 2002

Audrey strides ahead, red hair knotted,
and who else could command
that face like a quarry of diamonds,
which cuts into the summer, decisive.
Back with Anna, who’s enigmatic with
pregnancy, I am uncertain as a suitor,
proffering friendship and dim advice,
nostalgic for her narcotic fire, her
radical spark, wondering who might be
this weary, bleary walker,
this unfocussed fortress
of do-you-know-what-I-means.

The plangent slap of our six flip-flops
rattles the muddled heat, startles
a hidden woodpecker that reacts
with a clatter of wings and a cry.
Despite the high calm of the maples
and pine, the asphalt seems to suffer,
curling up along the hill as though
in need of comfort. I suspect
I should understand something here
that I do not understand.

As I struggle to attend
to Anna’s volley of vaguenesses,
Audrey ignores the rusty hauteur
of a No Trespass notice pinned
to a trunk, and in her ignorance turns
onto a woody footpath, where there’s
slimness and soft ferns at the ankles
and insects in the dim.
We walk in her wake—
she’ll get us to the lake.

Perhaps it is the nature of summer
to have nothing to say, to drift in
the currents of fluid circumstance,
to be fetally blank, sweetly tabula rasa
by the banks of existence. Perhaps
it is this thick season that amplifies
my whispery blood, the thump
and whir of viscera, such that I become
susceptible to the push of Anna
and the fierce pull of Audrey.

My dear friends by the lake!
Audrey gone down to her suit, freckles
asparkle, that tall Minerva,
aiming her sorrows like arrows
at the little lake of god, where they
dart away as minnows and she follows.
Anna is tenderly stepping now bare
feet on pebbly grass—still, the insouciant
nub of her ass is reminiscent of Anna
as she was before being subsumed
by the swarming cells of the fetus.
Once in the lake, Audrey and Anna shriek
at the subsurface weeds, whose tentacles
prickle their limbs until they go deeper.

I muster myself to the water. Is there
a welcome from this wide, wrinkled face?
Does it know I swim well, that I will
bind to its surface, immune to its tongues?
Is it aware of my singular ability
to free myself of substance?
Just so, I wedge myself between the lake
and the light, and strike out for Audrey and Anna.
We three chat in the warm swirls that marble
the chill beneath, and into this we hang trustingly.
Only—strange pains begin in Anna’s belly.

The sky, empty as a window, resembles itself
at a different hour. I float around and out,
a mote, a mute spot on the water, a drowned
mouth. I kick a distance. Ahead,
the oaks on the periphery are like buffalo,
a huge momentum that vanishes at the edge.
Behind, Audrey and Anna are crab eyes on
a vast crab shell. Odd. To be in the swill
of this crude tonic, tipped to the lips
of the whole damn world—ain’t it swell?
Suddenly, I am angry and there is no air
in the air. I long to damage what cannot
receive damage, and I stab my legs like fangs
into the cold liver of the lake.
I will kill the lake.

And where are the birds? No birds on the water.
No birds, no birds. No birds at all. Come back,
you bad little birds.

Anna going away, small yellow thumb head,
headed to land, standing on land, sickened.
Audrey swimming to me, mouth saying how
a little world is going down. What sense in this,
when I’ve always been quite sure
that it’s Anna the ocean, and Audrey the shore?

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Patricia Mickelberry is a freelance copyeditor for Duke University Press, where she was formerly Assistant Managing Editor. She also teaches and practices yoga, which she credits for everything good in her life.