Lake Freeze

 

The lake in December

Does not want to freeze.

 

It wants to stay outside

And play with the sky.

 

It wants to perfect

Its portraiture

 

Of the naked woods,

 

The lonesome cottages,

 

Of mighty Orion,

 

It wants to go on

Chastely bathing the moon.

 

But the hard currency

Of its turtles

Is buried in the mud,

 

Its frogs are locked

In cold storage,

 

Its kingfisher dethroned

And forced into exile;

 

The last of its ducks

Have been detonated.

 

The lake imbibes a grim freezing rain.

 

It swallows a nightlong snowfall.

 

And still it wakes supple,

Rising in points,

Breaking in foam at the shore.

 

But it no longer feels

The sun on its skin

 

And its largemouth bass

Have lowered like anchors.

 

All day it is dead to the traveling

Menagerie of the clouds.

 

Its helpless shivering

Shatters the sunset.

 

At night it dreams

The blue heron has returned,

 

But its pike surrender

At the armory,

 

And it wakes in frost smoke,

Perfectly numb and still,

Belted by a thin crust of ice.

 

It flails dumbly,

Crushing the ice—

 

It must stay awake!

It must keep moving!

 

In subzero gales,

Blue-black and white-capped,

The lake is the Midas of icicles.

 

Its waves are crystallizing.

 

One muskrat attends the last

Double-setting of the sun.

 

By moonlight the reeds

Are overtaken and imprisoned:

 

The lake is breathing

Through a final portal

With a final trembling star;

 

Then it wakes without waking,

Without having slept:

 

It is paved in glass

By winter’s developers.

 

It presses to the pane.

 

The pane is snowed under.

 

The lake is the Fortunato of the sky.

 

*

 

The lake sobs.

 

The lake is its own sepulcher.

 

It is only the dread

Of knowing only itself.

 

But its terror attenuates

 

 As the lake night-adapts

To the consolations

Of its slow inner life.

 

Its wandering

Galaxy of sunfish.

 

Its nursery of tadpoles.

 

The patient rounds

Of its muskrat

 

And biding minnows.

 

Its sleepwalking hellbender.

 

And it begins to remember—

 

Everything:

 

The mayflies'

Greeting goodbye,

 

The intricate rings

Of a warm rain,

 

The comic harping

Of the green frog,

 

The narcissism

Of the evening swallows,

 

The artful dodge

Of the water strider:

 

In cold-blooded bliss,

 

Without hope

And without despair,

 

The lake commences

Its autobiography.

 

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