James Tate


                  I stood there by the lake, skipping stones. In
the pleasantest way, it brought back memories of childhood
vacations when we stayed in cabins with no running water
or electricity. It was enough just to be on a lake and
fish. Big fish, small fish, lots of fish, or no fish, it
didn't really matter, just as long as we had a pole and
a hook in the water. I no longer fish, but I still like
to be by a lake, and gaze on the reflection of the trees
on the water. A doe comes out of the woods with her two
fawns for a cold drink. They don't see me. I stand very
still. After they leave, I lie down and nap. I dream that
I have a hook in my mouth. It's tearing my cheek. I'm
squirming and struggling with all my might to dislodge it,
but it just gets worse. When I finally wake up, I'm covered
with thousands of tiny, red ants, and they're stinging me.
They're all over my face and inside my clothing. I kill
them as fast as I can, but I'm forced to strip. I dive
into the icy, cold lake, which rids me of the ants, but nearly
stops my heart. I drag myself up onto the banks. My clothes
are still swarming with ants. I do everything I can
to shake them out. I'm glad I didn't have an audience,
because I must have been a ridiculous sight. But maybe I
did have an audience. I stopped and looked around. I could
hear voices, whispering, I could see eyes darting about in
the woods. I started to dress, ants or no ants. They were
saying my name and laughing. I could still feel the hook in
my cheek. There was nothing I could do about it. It had
all started so pleasantly. I was freezing and burning up
at the same time. A big man with a walking stick stepped out
of the woods behind me and nearly scared me to death. "I'm
going to tell you something that I bet you don't know," he
said. "There's a lot I don't know," I said, "but go ahead
and surprise me with one more." "Extinct species of fish
live in this lake, and I don't mean just one. This is where
they come when they die out," he said. "I thought that might
make you feel better after all of those ant bites and the fish
hook in your cheek." "How'd you know about the hook?"
I said. "I could see it," he said. "It really hurt," I said.
"All kinds of extinct stuff come here to live. Hell, I
myself am extinct, and those little, red ants are extinct,"
he said. "You don't look extinct to me," I said. "That's
just the point. We come back, but only around here, don't
ask me why. I don't claim to understand any of it," he said.
"Well, thanks for sharing you secret with me, but it looks
like there's a storm coming in and I need to find my way out,"
I said. He gave me a long, strange look, without
speaking. I tried to walk away, but I couldn't. His eyes
held me as sure as if I had on leg-irons. I was on the endangered
list, soon to be extinct.


EPR #5:
The Loon

EPR #1:
More Later, Less the Same
The Wrong Way Home



© 2003 Electronic Poetry Review