Rebecca Nelson


Summer dark, lakewater, stars
             unravel in fallen
                          moths and fireworks,
what may’ve happened

in the scattered leaves, gunshot residue
            and what did
                         to make such nebular grief
run the sky raw with light

when words fled
            from shining lake to
                         formless space and became
bright, broken things—

             a pinned butterfly’s wing,
             chipped meteors,
             a sunflower petal,
             taken from

the cold deep lake
            I swam in girlhood,
                         where I sang to
                         some time, some place,
                         now unreachable afterglow,
                         pondweed, its empty sky and quiet

follow me even here
            to these hot lunar hills;
                        desert in my breath
            needs no language
            but sharp red ache
            where water sang once

the quiet passed on,
            formless as
                          lakewater I carry
our prayers

             in a string of yellow petals:              
             little half-moons settle
             on the lake’s surface.
                          beneath a gone
sea, its lush red coral,
              bright and sharp.