“August, West Bay” by Holly Wren Spaulding

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August, West Bay,” a poem by Holly Wren Spaulding, appeared in MQR’s Summer 2011 issue, The Great Lakes: Love Long and Lament.


Our headlights splash across their bodies
and she kicks and spins
as he falls with her,
their legs caught and shining.

White and whittled they both dive,
go down again
out where buoys bend like ghosts in the harbor.
They chase each other through the shallows.

Every now and then
a searchlight bathes us,
brightening the fog-thick air.

We watch the swimmers
with our feet splayed upon the dashboard.
We will never be younger than we are now—
conjuring what we can from August heat,
all these nights of little sleep,
our bodies shifting to find the breeze.

We talk about our other lives,
what may yet happen,
and if not, what we’ll do then.

Nearby there’s diesel hum and asphalt reek.
We stare at the night sky,
the wet dark stretched out before us,
the bearded boy stumbling into view,
a last Anchor Steam in hand,
laughing easily—
everyone else is celebrating down here.

But isn’t Pakistan still flooding—
aren’t whole mountainsides
and families lost in the flow?
Isn’t our own Kalamazoo River awash in oil—
even now it rushes toward this lake.
Harvest of black veils, black veils,
slick grip on the waterlife
we can’t quite see
though we try to praise it,
try to notice the dying.
Maybe all this longing will snag itself
on the reeds or dissolve quick
as the waves weaving this shore.
Maybe we’ll be useful yet.


Image: “Tommygun” by Robert Sparrow Jones. Graphite on Arches Paper. 2013.

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