Poetry | June 01, 1990

This poem was selected as a Poem of the Week (1/22/2008).

At the Lake

Even if the rain holds off awhile

And our walk to the lake goes as we planned it,

It won’t be one of the famous golden adventures

Sufficient to pay us, when added up,

A fair price for our lives.

Just another of the copper coins

Doled out to us so far

Even if the geese are out on the water parading

And nobody’s throwing stones

And the fisherman, having caught enough,

Are willing to chat.


Maybe we’ll enjoy it more

If we tell ourselves we’ve been rewarded already

With as many good days as we deserve,

That the rest are extra.

Having savored the gifts of the work week

We’re ready on this day of rest

To see what the gods of rest are up to,

The geese and the wind and the fishermen.


Now we can try to imagine the people here

Before the settlers came to change the landscape,

What they felt when they woke to a vista of hills

Unmarked by towns, barns, and orchards,

When they found no traces of last year’s camp

On their return in spring to the clearings,

In autumn to the clam banks, in winter to the woods.


We can think of the elders

Seated at their camp fire as a storm blew in.

Time for them to tell the story again

How once their ancestors lived under the lake

And grubbed in the dark for roots

Until a hero happened to find the opening

And led them up through the rock roof

To hunt here, in the sweet light of the sun.

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