National Poetry Month Day 9: Jon Sands





The Lake

The lake in the middle of the park
rests under a thick patina of algae, surrounded
by maples, oaks, sycamores, cherry blossoms,
and a path that circles it like a loose headband
keeping the lake’s brains inside. I want to see
the lake. I’m in tattered athletic shorts
and a baby blue t-shirt. Water floods my beat up Asics.
My knees and hips part the algae. I push my Instagram
to the side, sweep my arm through any time
I’ve viewed my own profile pretending to be
another person seeing me. The water,
surprisingly cold for June, submerging my chest.
A speckled turtle shell floats near my torso
beside any exposed hip my eyes had
breathed in on the running path that initially
began in the woods. My clothing choices,
the length of my hair, all of it trending
further away from the child I was toward
the man my father became. The water is
at my neck now, and I just want to know something
beyond the opacity of the surface.
Then there’s poetry, almost arbitrary
down here, the urge both to share and hide it,
except that everyone needs to love something
or the body becomes unbound paper
blowing away in a stiff breeze.
Joggers are calling to me from the shore,
but I can’t hear them, frog bellies
blinking down to me now. The three months
I left my own body, trapped under
another’s thumb. How I thought I might die.
The seven years it took to grow new skin.
My mother’s tears hitting splintered wood
on a park table in Ohio, saying,
I tried to be the best person I could, so that if I died
it mattered. My ears pop, so many
individual droplets down here. Frank’s
watermelon hat, his hand, the way he opens
his whole body to tears, to laughter.
                                    And there is Maggie
singing to our puppy to get him to eat his breakfast,
creating nicknames for who she loves most.
Her nose, her heart, the end of any path
I run. There she is bleeding too much
in the delivery room, and I don’t know
what is water and what is her. Me, collapsed
on the hospital floor, knowing
I would have to be remade, as though I, too,
were a baby. Everything is so clear down here.
There she is, fighting, swimming
                                                                        to me.



Author photo credit Jonathan Weiskopf

Jon Sands is a winner of the 2018 National Poetry Series, selected for his second book, It’s Not Magic (Beacon Press, 2019). He is the facilitator of the Emotional Historians workshop, a series of generative writing classes which you can find out more about on Instagram @iAmJonSands. His work has been featured in the New York Times, as well as anthologized in The Best American Poetry. He lives in Brooklyn. More from this author →