The Other Side

By Maggie Kennedy

A dock leading into a calm lake in the day time

                          For Alex

You and I pick one by one
the wet stones glittering the shore,
greedily pocketing the shine,
until our shorts bulge
like hamster cheeks,
and we walk bow-legged
to the car, turning every few
feet to look back at the lake

as if her shifting moods could
not be summoned at will, as if
for days we won’t be brushing
sand from our every crevice.
You pause again to look
before we breach, and I stop
to memorize you, my son,
before you grow again.

We are flatlanders, dwellers of
paved prairies. We do not take
large churning bodies of water
or even hills for granted. And this
is our Great Lake, our absolute location
between Polaris and Crux, always
to the east of us except this one
week a year when it sits west,

the shift in longitude fluid as a lane
change, and we see the expressway
has thinned to two streams, and can
you believe the lake is behind those
pines? What if we forgot towels.
We can buy more. Poor kitty
left behind, but we will be ok
with the lake by our side.

The car is overstuffed with a whiff
of adolescent boy and something
sticky is underfoot. The mattresses

will be lumpy, booze will pour
copiously and there will be rancorous
meltdowns and direct kicks
under the table and a chance of rain
that dredges boredom.

This is why we collect the stones
you tell me as I once told you, bending
to select a perfect circle, a burnished
hole on your palm. A reminder.
In late summer, at a certain time of day,
the sun plays off the washed up stones
and they shine one by one as one,

and it’s as if we never left. The lake having
a way of not being there and then being
there fully without excuses. She greets us,
loaded down with folding chairs, pails
and shovels, boogie boards. A bustling
matriarch enfolding us in her remembered
embrace without a pause to her chatter.

The lake is wild today, waves dragging
us down. The lake is calm today, us
the only ripples. The lake is somewhere
in between. And we play our roles
perfectly. Your father’s squeal wading in,
your brother atop a crest, you and
your cousins digging and splashing
and coaxing us to the sand bar.

At some point, the sun angles to catch
the blond hairs on your burnt
shoulders. You are laughing, and one
by one we start to laugh as one.
That is what we remember, when
back home, we un-pocket the stones,
faded and rough to touch.
This capacity we have to glow.

Category: Featured, Poetry