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Published: Tue May 29 2018
Eva Lundsager, Were now like (detail), 2021, oil on canvas
Online 2018 Aging Mysteries
The Lake

He had already begun to cross over
and see things from the other side of his room.
He was already flying with invisible wings
in his chair, staring ahead as I wheeled him
into the hall. “Where would you like to go?”
I asked. “I’ll take you anywhere.”
_                                                                      _“Outside,”
he said, as if outside were everywhere
he’d ever been and wanted to return to
again and again. It was late April—warm
and clear. I rolled him out the door at the end
of the hall and into the sky. All winter long
he’d been breathing the same recycled air
inside his cinder block room, so even
though his senses were dull and his mind half gone,
he could smell the lilacs and hear the birds call out
to each other their various fricative songs.

“Shall we go for a swim?” he asked, gazing at the field
outside his room. He saw the lake on which he’d lived
instead of the field and wanted to go in. He saw
the sun shining on the rye as it waved in the breeze
to him to also wave. “Yes!” I said. “Yes.”
I struggled in vain to hold him down by the handles
of his chair, feeling him rise like a swing that wouldn’t
come down, no matter how hard I pressed against
the ground. No no’s anymore to anchor him here.

“Dive off the end,” he said. “I’ll follow you in.”

To which I almost said yes again but refrained
this time because I couldn’t find the tone
anymore to sound like the boy who had just jumped
in; because only he could see the veil
that lay before him as a lake expanding into
a sea I couldn’t see but only hear
in the distance as its waves pounded the shore and then
receded beneath his chair into the vast
from which they came like hands and then returned.

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Chard DeNiord is the poet laureate of Vermont and the author of six books of poetry, most recently Interstate (The University of Pittsburgh Press, 2015) and The Double Truth (Pittsburgh, 2011). His new book of interviews with nine contemporary poets (Jane Hirshfield, Natasha Trethewey, Carolyn Forché, Galway Kinnell, Martín Espada, Stephen Kuusisto, Peter Everwine, Ed Ochester, and Stephen Sandy) and James Wright’s widow, Annie, is forthcoming from Pittsburgh this month under the title I Would Lie To You If I Could. Other books include Night Mowing (Pittsburgh, 2005), Sharp Golden Thorn (Marsh Hawk Press, 2003), and Asleep in the Fire (University of Alabama Press, 1990). A book of essays on and interviews with seven senior American poets, titled Sad Friends, Drowned Lovers, Stapled Songs: Conversations and Reflections on Twentieth-Century American Poets, was published by Marick Press in 2012. His poems and essays have appeared in The Pushcart Book of PoetryNew England ReviewAGNILiterary ImaginationSalmagundiThe American Poetry Review, and The Hudson Review. He is professor of English and creative writing at Providence College, co-founder of the New England College MFA Program in Poetry, and a trustee of the Ruth Stone Trust. He lives in Westminster West, Vermont, with his wife, Liz. (updated 5/2018)

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