Jason Harris, USA
After George Oppen and conversation with a friend
Stopped at a red light after class; we see Lake Erie.
All the life it holds trembling in its dark, still palm:
the yellow perch, the walleye. The brown trout,
algae bloom. On the radio Trump says We are putting
America first. The lake says No thank you, America.
No thank you. In deference to our wishes it recedes.
The best of my generation are drowning. Everyone
I know knows bodies belong on land unless the body
is aquatic. Everything is vulnerable when touched
by something other than itself. We don’t know, any-
more, what to expect from our government. The lake,
on the other hand, expects more from us. Expects to be
touched by cleaner hands. I remember the poem
about Lake Superior. The one in which you annotated
in black. The hearts you drew around the metaphors.
The exclamations. I remember the moon orbiting the red
polish of your nail beds as we surveyed the undertow
of streets before us. I remember our promise to be one
little rift upon the lake. To be one little image inside
the poem. To be a basic need: an element, a tributary,
a runoff. Eventually the water will come and we
will be left defenseless in its rise. Radical Democrats
want to turn back time Trump says. His crowd cheers
static into the radio. The lake is exhausted. Anxious.
Is waiting for us to write ourselves out of history.
What would you do if you had more time? I ask.
We swim our way through bright manufactured
lights of the city. I don’t know if I have the time,
you say, to think about that right now. Please,
just keep driving. Accelerating through a yellow
light, I contemplate what we would do if we could
stand at the mouth of Lake Erie? Contemplate how
it would feel if we let the water wash over our feet,
let what remained in the tide batter our shins.
Shiver at the thought of the battering changing us.
But the floorboard was a floorboard, not a lakefront.
Jason Harris is a poet and NEOMFA candidate. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Winter Tangerine, TRACK//FOUR, OCCULUM, Longleaf Review, Wildness Journal, Peach Magazine, Cosmonauts Avenue, The Gordon Square Review, and others. He is the Co-Editor-in-Chief of BARNHOUSE Journal, a contributor for Watermelanin Magazine, and lives in Cleveland, OH. He can be found on social media @j_harriswrites