All Down the Lake
It wasn’t so much that the dinner conversation
had bored me as that I was simply tired
of words, particularly my own. So afterwards
I slipped away and followed the path down
to the boathouse, where I sat in a lawn chair.
The lake was perfectly still, the inky hills
on the far shore mirrored between two skies
of deepening blue and streaked with clouds
tinged with the last pink. At first I didn’t notice
the strange sounds, then didn’t recognize them
as human: the faint, distorted, jumbled voices
of dinner conversations all down the lake’s
mile length, sliding across the glossy surface
only to rebound off the shore and swirl together
in a confusion of murmurous babble.
Now and then a weird inflection or wild laugh
broke free from the hubbub and twisted up
like a bottle rocket left over from the Fourth.
It was a relief and, really, a pleasure
not to make out the words, or even the coherent
intonations of sense-making and just focus
on the hallucinatory, far-off din. Then slowly,
as the dinner parties one-by-one dispersed,
the voices dropped away until only
a few remained—less alien-sounding now—
then none, as if the lake itself were a mind
that had finally quieted its chatter
just as the first stars glimmered into being
and a bullfrog started calling, deep and steady.
Copyright © 2018 by Jeffrey Harrison
All rights reserved.
Reproduced by Poetry Daily with permission
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