the girl who drowned in dover pond
Dead stars conflate
in the ice over you
tonight, torn dress
that no longer fits.
Lidless eye, moon
gazing on meth heads
who shiver outside
the nearby library. Street
noise echoes in empty
halls like slivers
of silence wriggling;
the filament of my aunt’s
voice in a phone
saying the gulls no longer
wait among the reeds
she sees from her study.
The winters last
longer since you left
the living side of the ice.
By April, we can press an ear
to the great oaks and hear the soft
whine of squirrels
waiting for the world to grow
warm. When I was young
I was sure I’d seen your
shape in the water, my mother’s
white knuckles on
the steering wheel.
When the snow came,
we lost power for three
days. I was sure
the world was blanching
a welcome for you
between rocks that
whispered in the frost
I am here.
After the photographs of Enrique Metinides
The man looks at you, holding a limp woman
in his arms as the policeman swelters under the sun.
Behind them, dozens of faces reflect
empty barges drifting downriver, past a town
where a man carries his mother in his arms, walking
toward you, as if to ask is this what you came for?
The people clasp their hands together, look at
the woman’s limp heels crossed, her head tilted up
to face the sky we cannot see. Some of them watch you
as you position your camera. The background is a wall
of huge stones, every piece maintaining
the whole, cracked and chipped. The onlookers’
mouths hang slightly open as if to breathe in
a little of her death, the black star shading this
moment. All their eyes go dark - The sun sunk
behind them cannot reveal its light. Click.
Men’s faces peer through the cracked car window,
its network of panic. The child sprawls
in the seat, the silence after a crash; witnesses
hear the world go on, glass exploded in protest.
The woman beside him could be his mother
who tried to brace his seat with her arm, a thread
to keep out the hurricane. The skin on her neck
turned away looks soft, shunning
blank eyes. Her hair pulled up among gold earrings,
she could be merely exhausted for a moment,
a repose before returning to the blur
she’d found her days becoming. The men stare
through absence, look directly at the camera,
at you peering in on this scene that is hushed,
sacred. Well, what did you expect to see?is the question
wearing lines into their skin. Click.
The blinding glare on the blade of the sky as she sits
beside him, her young face buried in the crook of her arm
to draw the shadows to her eyes. Her floral print dress
shines. The shape of his body will take over five months
to evaporate from the grass by the park’s path. He lay
face down beside her, a dried-up river. In another world,
they live on together and go to an old bridge
by the river where they eat chicharones
and talk about the way their city looks
when you drive into the mountains
and look back for a moment. Families walking
on a nearby street, point and whisper, afraid
fate will overhear. The clouds overhead
are teeth in a smile too strange to understand;
the grass reclines in the inevitability of
everything, a tuft still caught in his hand. Click.
A pole held out-of-frame is connected by a strap
to the man in the water. He swims toward a sopped
shirt-shape cresting the waterline. Ripples cascade
across everything. The clouds now murky in brackish
water alongside the reflections of the people, their faces
smudging together. A tree grows into the water
near the swimmer, weightless, absurd, a comfort
for the loss. A sign says this ecosystem
is a borderland for zapotes and silk snappers.
The drowned man may have imagined heaven
when he died but it was people who arrived,
shoulder to shoulder, to glimpse the dark side of a miracle
in that pond on a late spring day. They think now
of the eyes of their children playing in nearby houses.
A plane flies overhead, too close to the sun. The swimmer
parts a mirrored sky to put his hands on the vessel.
Todd Follett’s poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Iron Horse Literary Review, Spoon River Poetry Review, Natural Bridge, The Pedestal Magazine, and several other publications.