A journal of art + literature engaging with nature, culture, the environment & ecology

How to talk about love at a time like this

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

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