A German pear in a black one-piece
with a two-layer skirt to cover
some of her years, she doesn’t know how
to go forward, sitting at the top
of the Black Tunnel. Loyle died
two months ago, and maybe he nudges her
from the beyond or the buildup
of water behind her finally lifts her
into the unknown. When they first met
sixty-one years before the Parkinson’s,
he lifeguarded at Crab Orchard Lake.
She took off her red cap when she walked
by so he’d see her blond hair, now
as white as the sand on that beach.
He whooped like a crane
then looked away to pretend
he didn’t feel an explosion. She smiled,
but today she whoops
and wails as the black water
surrounds her and turns her down
and around through tears and laughter.
She sees their beach that summer—Loyle
skims into the water to save her
from her parents, from all the boys
from Paducah to Carbondale, and from more
nights alone. They spooned
under Kentucky’s tired sky for six decades.
She springs from the hole,
goes under and comes up baptized.
The crowd hears only the echo of her
screams. She listens only to her holy ghost
whooping back across the clear water. He still knows
what to say: Maurita, you’re Fifth Avenue.
Gary Dop—poet, scriptwriter, essayist, and actor—lives with his wife and three daughters in Minneapolis, where he teaches creative writing at North Central University. He received a Special Mention in the 2011 Pushcart Prize anthology, his essays have aired on public radio’s All Things Considered, and his poems have appeared in Prairie Schooner, AGNI, Poetry Northwest, New Letters, Rattle, _North American Review, _and elsewhere. (updated 2/2012)