Dragging the Lake

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)
More Poems by Thomas James