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Topography

Maggie Blake

At Lake Oconee, I ask about the depth
and learn that all the lakes of the southeast
more or less are man-made: dammed rivers,
ravaged trees standing throat deep in water,
left for fisheries, the thriving trees on shore 
the privacy screens of the wealthy.

As the motor boat skips and slices,
I imagine a cemetery, a school yard, 
submerged placeholders of a necessarily 
abandoned town, the river turning ceilings 
into fathoms. The water itself holds 
too much silt for us to know. I hear you coughing,


that afternoon on the boat, beers in our hands,
that night on the dock, eating grilled corn,
a bass note, a constant rough and rasped
undercurrent. You say, “I used to only get sick
in the winter.” And when we wake up late
on Sunday morning, I am shaking off


the whiskey as you tell me, shyly, 
hives have spread to the bottom of your feet.
Timidly you raise your shirt, not for sunscreen
but for me to smooth cream on the welts
that constellate your back, the raised islands
of the topographical and secret map of illness.


I don’t tell you about the steeple I pictured
underneath our feet as we swam, scratched
initials in a doorjamb sloughing to driftwood,
backyard gardens of catfish, somnolent, heavy.
I imagine the cough to be a summer cold, 
too much pollen, a boat wake against new pilings.