Pond Scene 1
My damp feet trespass the berm
at the pond’s edge,
winter’s precocious thaw.
Remnants of fall leaves
scatter beneath her veil,
lolling, wet in February’s death. I
see you half submerged / camera’s dream,
hearkening Millais’ muted heroine.
We share in printed after-stills
our dimmed twin vision: Ophelia:
submerged, condemned to sleep;
death’s certain vagary bled through petioles.
Spring should bloom through winter’s
bleak monochrome, but the camera’s eye
called it in aspheric departure.
Pond Scene 2
Me—anxious, texting you from the pond
in the municipal park of the shitty little barely-city
the aftermath of scraped metal, a tire, small-town
accidents with blue-clad bullies aggravating, not officiating
yet harassing the queer victim. It was the other’s fault
and yet, I was the constructed other/victim? Her choleric husband
evicted from the scene / at my insistence / without being there.
He felt the need to speak for her / render her mute—
his grateful, adoring contingent. Truth, the spare tire scraped over my hood
as she rammed the reverse / embossing my front bumper.
An easy thousand for the slight damage of a reckless instant.
You didn’t honk in time, she told the cop, told me, as if it were my fault.
Victim-blamed and used to it / small town queer.
Can a woman cop co-opt the power of a cock?
Harassing women, queers, a small-town dream realized
in someone else’s misfortune.
I texted you, upset, overwrought. Not just the accident,
the nasty husband, the bullish, man-wannabe bitch-of-a-cop, but the whole
damn scene. You texted—“Take care. We’ll talk tomorrow.”
Ducks floated along and people ambled down the path.
I sat alone on a bench, waiting for the police report.
No comfort that day. It was Cinco de Mayo.
Everyone was drunk—driving their shiny vintage cars down the strip.
Small town shit. No tests were given, except to me.
Two more tires dislodged from their vehicles only weeks later,
Shredding and striking my car, rolling up over my hood.
Bizarre, the universe
with its accidents / not. Something with tires.
Pond Scene 3
On a weekend outing / sitting in my car / I felt you.
Sent you a text.
You were reticent / uneasy. More tires.
Blown, broken bumpers, accidents. Yours. A month later.
Your car damaged. Dangling front end. No money to fix.
Angry ex-husband shamed you. You, sitting at the picnic table
near the pond. Alone. Smoking. Not calling me.
I called you. Then came your tears. What would you do?
The cost. The other car. The anger. The blame.
You never asked for anything; it was easy to give.
“I’ll help you I said. It will be okay,” I added, but things
were never okay, The camera knew. And you.
Pond Scene 4
I was finally with you, in 3-D, in England’s strange warm light
with its gray undertones and ancient ghosts,
and cobbled roads and rules that everyone followed. My legs
were cramped from the long flight and I needed to move,
and wanted to run; you wanted to smoke. We drove to the pond,
your small pond up the road; it was bordered by browned, unkempt grass
scorched by summer. England isn’t normally as you see it,
you assured me. It’s usually a vivid green this time of year.
I ran multiple circles around the path that circled the pond,
around you as you sat—smoking
then touched your shoulder—gently, and sat near you.
You need a lawyer I said, and soon. He is waging all-out war. I’ll pay for it.
You smoked, stared and resisted. A kind of defiance—
ongoing / stubborn / an invisible wall / internal blockade / martyr-like unfathomable.
Would you like to walk a final lap with me? No.
You continued to smoke and stare into the water. Quiet. Pensive.
Your opaque eyes distant and dark.
Pond Scene 5
This pond scene—your solo act, a private thing.
Things one only does alone.
You wouldn’t let me walk with you
if, indeed you walked there. I recreate
your outing in my mind, as it was your final act
before you shut your eyes
for good to the sad promenade.
Did you walk with your pregnant horrible red medicine bag
pressed across your chest, chocked with bottles,
baby blankets, and your son’s crumpled letter? Did you sit
at the iron-stained table, gazing at your photos
of your daughters? Did you try to call them before you drove
to the motel? You said you were not allowed to talk.
Did they answer? You smoked, most certainly, deep inhales
of nicotine calm / exhaling the piling burdens as oblivious geese
amassed around the shoddy dock.
Did you clutch your mother’s hanky / find glints of comfort in anything,
including the relief of your decision? Or did you allow room
for an alternate plan, contingent on a phone call, the weather,
a sudden shift in wind? Did you sit, determined, reminiscing
about spare joys in the play you inhabited?
Did you smile at the thought of revenge / in your I’ll-show-them reverie?
Did you feel tremendous relief / from the unbearable burdens of existence?
What went through that freckled curly head / that day as you sat,
broken-hearted, prepping for your exit?
I replay the walk, a relentless video in my head, filling in
your last hours after you left me that morning. I see you
in the sad little pond, lungs saturated / as you make your grand exit
from the ruins. Pockets weighted with the heavy burdens of being a person.
a woman, a mother, a queer. Oh—but wait / water was the wrong way.
It only worked when you were Ophelia or Virginia / or the murderous
husband in the TV show / who killed his wives, one after the other /
For you, the pond was not quite right. It was too public /
not convenient or quick.
The geese might witness / alert the passersby.
You smoked / gazed into the air.
No hurry. You might smoke the whole damn pack / then finish the job.
It was only 10 a.m. You might have a drink at the pub / or eat a last lunch.
You had the whole Saturday, and your whole life to decide,
And now I have mine to fantasize about it.
Friday: The last three TV shows you watched:
- A husband kills his wives in a bathtub. Eventually he is discovered, but only after repeat acts on numerous unsuspecting women.
- Someone’s murdered in a hotel room. The girlfriend’s shown, distraught, horrified, grief stricken, unable to stand.
- Someone gets poisoned. It takes time / to solve the crime.
A woman, initially blamed, a whodunit / with a (surprise) twist / husband as perp. True Story.
Regrets—I wish we had gone, instead, to the Shakespeare play.
Sitting awkwardly in the damp grass / for an authentic tourist experience
watched goateed dandies in crimson leotards / topple, destroy innocent women like lawn pins,
one after another. A proper kinda date. Your idea. / We could
have held hands,
I would have played with your hair, walked afterwards with rain spattering
against our fuzzy, buzzing heads / then later, made love with wine
on our breaths—all primed with tragic heterosexual romance.
But I hate plays in general and straight tragedies in particular.
We did yours instead, with me, an unwitting actor / on a rutted stage
improvising as the script unrolled like parchment nightmares.
If only I had unplugged that fucking TV.
On TV, at the obscene outdoor theatre,
everywhere, a tragedy
unravelling with some man / any man / everyman
at the helm and woman dragged
along and brutally severed at the rudder.
You tired of the television, headed to bed / and left me in the living room
weighted by the unbearable gloom of the week’s dramas / while
the menacing gigantic English pigeons / flapped their terrible wings
as they dropped from trees outside your open panes.
I had this awful sick feeling, sticky / like the filthy air of Brooklyn,
clinging to my skin and pressing / against my chest like something
closing in, turned out, your death.
Pond Scene 6
I walked all over the town, panicked / as you hadn’t returned from the pond.
Nothing seemed familiar. Couldn’t find my way. The streets were nameless.
We had driven with me as distracted passenger in your car.
My feet could not remember the steps. I walked up to town / up
towards the gym,
then the other way, choking back tears / as nothing looked familiar.
My heart lit up at each red car, thinking it was you,
fantasizing you would stop and pick me up, and smile.
Everything would be okay / then we’d go to dinner
and enjoy some Merlot. I saw the pond finally / a couple cars,
but no people.
I ran up the drive, half-expecting your body sprawled on a blanket,
or you floating face-down in the water / but you were not to be found.
The red car parked in the gravel lot was not yours.
No evidence you had been there
and yet I felt the terrible loom of your absence / the dreadful void of England
in all its enormity, opening up at the mouth of the pond.
My stomach whorled and I doubled over in despair.
You were nowhere.
I found my way back to your apartment.
Later, the police drove me around. I sobbed in the car as I navigated,
first to the pond, and, by dark, to your allotment. Nothing.
Later, they found your car.
I held my breath as I waited for the confirmation over the phone,
hoping you were getting shit-faced in the neighboring bar.
You were not responsive, they said. And the dreaded pronouncement.
I had no rights. No visual confirmation. They had rules they followed.
Your body was your secret. And theirs.
How you did it, a mystery kept alive
in my macabre imagination.
Back home, winter is early. The ponds are frozen / and I am enswathed
in the dismal blanket of your death. Other outcomes were possible.
I play them over and over between the showings of the ponds.
I was a mere extra in your tragedy, but the key witness to the crime,
and the only one who could have stopped it. I failed. We didn’t pen
our stories. There are Gods who are angry,
Saturns and maneless lions, spilling through the Lion’s Gate and colliding like exploding stars in the eclipse.
Their baroque, colossal egos outstrip all sense / and in our innocence,
we blundered into the crossfire. And me, blinded by trust, the last cruel trick, and that tender embrace, failed to heed the signs.
And now / your eyes closed forever.
Featured Image Credit: Koss, 2020