Dragging the Lake

By Thomas James 1946–1974 Thomas James
They are skimming the lake with wooden hooks.
Where the oak throws its handful of shadows
Children are gathering fireflies.
I wait in the deep olive flux
As their cries ricochet out of the dark.
Lights spear the water. I hear the oak speak.

It foists its mouthful of sibilants
On a sky involved with a stillborn moon,
On the stock-still cottages. I lean
Into the dark. On tiny splints,
One trellised rose is folding back
Its shawls. The beacon strikes the lake.

Rowboats bob on the thick dark
Over my head. My fingers wave
Goodbye, remember me. I love
This cold, these captive stars. I shake
My blanket of shadows. I breathe in:
Dark replenishes my two wineskins.

My eyes are huge, two washed-out mollusks.
Oars fall, a shower of violet spray.
When will my hosts deliver me,
Tearing me with their wooden hooks?
Lights flicker where my live heart kicked.
I taste pine gum, they have me hooked.

They reel me in, a displaced anchor.
The cygnets scatter. I rise, I nod,
Wrapped in a jacket of dark weed.
I dangle, I am growing pure,
I fester on this wooden prong.
An angry nail is in my tongue.

Thomas James, "Dragging the Lake" from Letters to a Stranger, published by Graywolf Press. Copyright © 2008 by Thomas James.  Reprinted by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Source: Letters to a Stranger (Graywolf Press, 2008)

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Poet Thomas James 1946–1974

POET’S REGION U.S., Midwestern

Subjects Horror, Living, Death, Mythology & Folklore

 Thomas  James

Biography

Thomas James was born Thomas Edward Bojeski in Joliet, Illinois, where he would live most of his life. His poems, which demonstrate technical skill and the influence of Sylvia Plath, appeared in magazines and anthologies, including, North American Review, Poetry, and Poetry Northwest, which awarded him the Theodore Roethke Prize in 1969. He died in 1974 at the age of twenty-seven, shortly after the first publication of his only . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Horror, Living, Death, Mythology & Folklore

POET’S REGION U.S., Midwestern

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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