LaWanda Walters – Letting the Lake House Go

Walters LE P&W April 2024

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Live Encounters Poetry & Writing April 2024.

Letting the Lake House Go, poems by LaWanda Walters. 

Letting the Lake House Go

In memory of Sally Elder Kamholtz

The lake house glimmers like a fiction.
It has that glamour, that sense of flurry and regret,
its pier a long, white glove, an arabesque of an arm,
Mrs. Dalloway rushing to greet us, reaching over
the sapphire space between us.

It’s a painting of a house with a pier
from which lucky children jump for a time.
A lake house like this might mean wealth
or who lived first in a town. Its spacious back
to the lake and attached boathouse suggest
two-piece swimsuits and desire,
a woman’s back in a zipped-up dress,
a film like Body Heat with its jazzy score,
with Kathleen Turner in white, wind chimes at night,
that sullen, curvy tango, that riff of tenor saxophone winding
down and around. I remember being young
and having just seen the film, so dazed by the music’s
heat and the woman’s getting away
that I followed my husband right into the men’s room
at The Esquire. Some sweet men at the urinals laughed—
we were all the same, all in love with Kathleen Turner,
the blood-beat jazz of the saxophone

In E.B White’s essay, he tries to explain—
to himself and to us—the shock he knew
on returning, and not returning, to the lake he knew as a boy,
a place he describes as his “favorite haunt.”

From the point-of-view of my friend’s artwork,
we are looking back at the pier and the house.
We are flimsy as White’s ghost, poised out here
in the middle of a lake, able to keep nothing.
And the white pier tripping out to us glitters,
which is why, at first, instead of the pier
I saw a reflection of light in the water.

I saw the broken-up waves of sunlight—
the dabs and jabs of cobalt blue
and titanium white, chrome yellow and viridian
that give light the substance of ripples,
of water moving in the sun. And then thought, No,
this was their pier, made of pine and tar.
Someone must have gone out in a boat
to take the photograph from this angle.

When things are over, they’re a story,
no longer the foam and sweetness of in medias res.
It is helpful to try to write or paint that loss,
like this house which will echo out to the lake
in different keys and voices, a clink of ice
in glasses again, the sound of other children splashing.

And so my friend, a painter, drew this house reflected
in the water, or this house with a long, wooden pier,
or this refraction of light on water.
She used pastels, which lie freely as dust
on the paper, so it must be framed
under glass to stay, and must stay, now,
the art that the wake of a boat has left.

I think my friend, who had to give the house up,
saw that yes and no, that coming and going,
that exclusive-looking pier like the arm
of the lady in the lake handing over the sword,
needed to show how life looks, how
it continually fools the eye.

Cat, Goldfish, Water

after a painting by Tamara Krendel

The Siamese cat is the arc,
here, the necessary story of desire,
of window-shopping, as she peers
down into the bowl. What a lark

to reach that pearly thing shimmering,
and she’s up on her back toes, balancing,
one paw inside the bowl’s rim,
poised as a ballet dancer, her romance

with the being that glimmers in water,
below the surface which reflects like a shield
in light, a parallelogram, a field to be tilled
if this were another painting, if the ochre

and blue shadows contained within the glass
were in a different context. Shadows like trees
loom in the miniature distance, across the surface
or the field, all encompassed within the cosmos

of the fishbowl, watercolors being what they are:
difficult, artlessly expressive, the cat and the water
a little Grecian urn
captured in its timeless turn.

Gold Stars on a Mozart Minuet

Searching FlightAware for my daughter’s
arrival from Vienna, I see the yellow planes
clumped helter-skelter together on the screen,
like the sticky, gold-foil stars Mama used to place

on the sheet music where a child had made good
progress. She knew the meaning of reward over
punishment, having been an adopted, lame child
in dirt-poor Mississippi. Her daddy was the kinder

one, giving her three Shetland ponies and an accordion
when they could not afford it. Her “mother” disapproved,
the thin kind of lady who was such a good Christian
she’d taken Mama in. But the man she called Daddy loved

and watched out for her. We get our mothering wherever
we can find it. And just today, when my daughter arrives
from the country where Mozart ended up in an unmarked grave,
I know how close we are all to it—the people saying never

to children whose faces reflect their terror at what is alien,
no mothers for you, but here’s a blanket of aluminum.

© LaWanda Walters

LaWanda Walters earned her M.F.A. from Indiana University, where she won the Academy of American Poets Prize. Her first book of poems, Light Is the Odalisque, was published in 2016 by Press 53 in its Silver Concho Poetry Series. Her poems have appeared in Poetry, Georgia Review, Nine Mile, Radar Poetry, Antioch Review, Cincinnati Review, Ploughshares, Shenandoah, The American Journal of Poetry, Laurel Review, North American Review, Southern Poetry Review, Alligator Juniper, and several anthologies, including Best American Poetry 2015, Obsession: Sestinas in the Twenty-First Century, and I Wanna Be Loved by You: Poems on Marilyn Monroe. She received an Ohio Arts Council Individual Excellence Award in 2020. She lives in Cincinnati with her husband, poet John Philip Drury.

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