It had, so he recalled, no pretensions of being something so grand as a lake;
Just a roundish body of water, not particularly suited for diving
Nor of any real attraction to a fisherman,
Nothing there save the odd chub or sunfish to languidly pull one’s line,
Its recreational attributes limited to a postage-stamp size patch of sand
And one solitary rope attached to an equally lonely old truck tire,
Neither being of guaranteed fitness for the task at hand.
He’d gone there for one reason, and one reason only;
There’d been a girl, one late spring and a subsequent early fall,
And at times they’d gone there on the occasional sunny day,
Traversing a twisting two-lane stretch of county road
(The blacktop sprinkled with North Country sandstone, giving it a pinkish hue
Like a rainbow trout angrily flopping about on a dock)
In order to get waist-deep in the water (the pond never really warm enough
To swim in with malice aforethought) for a few minutes
Before settling on blankets to drink cokes and eat sandwiches
They’d picked up at the ancient, Mayberry-esque general store just west of town
And to speak in hesitant and uncomfortable half-sentences
Concerning accidents of birth and death, speculative half-made plans.
In the end, it all went no further than talk, at least after the inevitable transition
From the fleeting, furtive evenings to the harsh, unremitting light of day.
In truth, he’d always had one eye fixed beyond the horizon,
Beyond the lumbering, lumpy old Adirondack foothills,
Alternately comforting and claustrophobic, all the time paying heed
To some some whisper, nagging and ethereal, that all this
Was simply some momentary way station on the path
To something finer, something substantive, some end of the road;
He’d no way of knowing that the murmur would remain,
Soft yet persistent, long after he’d left that cold cow country,
Rumbling on as the calendar proceeded and the hairline receded.
His work, as it happened, sometimes carried him
To the stark, sparsely populated environs situated to the north of the Thruway,
And he would, almost in spite of himself, concoct some excuse
To take himself back out by the old pond—still unprepossessing,
The same tree sporting the rope-and-tire swing (some descendant of the one
He had known, but in the same uneasy state of disrepair),
And, now and then, he’d pull off onto the shoulder,
Leaving the car to walk down by the water’s edge.
On one occasion, he’d had the mad impulse
To dive into the water head-first and fully immerse himself,
And had gone as far as to take off his shirt and tie.
He’d checked himself in the end of course;
There were any number of water-borne nasties
Courtesy of beavers and Canada geese, and most likely leeches as well.
He’d dressed himself, and headed back to the car,
Making a note to himself to remember the hair-pin curve
Just this side of Hannawa Falls, gruesome stretch of road
Which had claimed its share of undergraduates back in his day,
And he’d always thought it sad how many bright futures
Had tumbled over the guardrails and into the ravine
To be held like dark secrets in the underbrush.