Algae Bloom at Fish Lake, WI. Photo by David H. Thompson.Algae Bloom at Fish Lake, WI. Photo by David H. Thompson.

An Incantation to be Spoken Lakeside

the way it defies gravity always invisibly rising

the way its white breath floats high above

the way it holds the sky up to itself

reflecting the light the blue

and the way it doubles the birds passing through

the way it trembles at the wind’s caress

the way it always responds

the way it circles our oars, our limbs

the embrace of the unconditional

the way it allows the bodies of fish the bodies of frogs

the tiny blue-green algae bodies

the way it offers itself to the thirsty

and takes whatever comes

the way it reflects our faces

reflects the things we love

the love we have for perfect lawns

the perfect green of perfect lawns

the phosphorus we pour and pour

the way it opens to whatever comes

to what comes pouring off our streets

the way it swallows whatever comes

and the swirl of green grows and grows

a floating raft of poison

the way it does not protest even while it’s choking

the way it does not discriminate or warn

the way it still offers itself to the mouths

of the animals who come in darkness

not knowing how toxic the green

the deadly perfect lawn green

the way it will hold the bodies of dogs

and the bodies of cows when they weaken

and when they begin to twitch and when they begin to stiffen

and the way it will carry them after

Algae Bloom at Fish Lake. Photograph by David H. Thompson, July 2010.

Algae Bloom at Fish Lake. Photograph by David H. Thompson, July 2010.

Heather Swan’s poems have appeared in Poet Lore, Iris, Cream City Review, Basalt, and more. Her chapbook, The Edge of Damage, was published by Parallel Press. Her creative nonfiction work about bees is forthcoming in Resilience, ISLE, and Aeon. This poem was written for the Dane County Water Commission in response to a show of photographs and poems called Beyond the Water’s Edge. Contact.


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