Arbor Vitae by Gary McDowell

Only one way. The house. The body. What
hisses, what gnaws—how to see what I’m
meant to see. When is time inconsolable
(and the world, there is no hurry)? The river
made of eyes, the lake made of bone. The thick
underneath, the waterline, mud that breathes,
notches whatever roils in and down. Stalks
of reeds I cannot name, seeds floating down
the current. But the lake—where we stay, where
we sleep, eat—is still. A campfire, wet wood
sweating, spitting, smoking. A signal. Time slows,
doubles over itself like a line cast from shore.
It’s dusk in the silt, the sand. The walleye, gold
like light, black light shadow, hurtle to the shore.
Gary McDowell is the author of the forthcoming book Aflame, winner of the 2019 White Pine Press Poetry Prize. He’s also the author of Caesura: Essays (Otis Books, 2017) and five previous collections of poetry, most recently Mysteries in a World that Thinks There Are None (Burnside Review Press, 2016). His work has recently appeared in The Nation, American Poetry Review, The Southern Review, and Gulf Coast. He’s associate professor of English at Belmont University and lives near Nashville with his family.