The Climb to the Lake

Shaune Bornholdt


Take my hand. Even though I am alone, I am glad you are with me.
Why talk in circles? Why not just take my hand?
We've had to go the long way round. I still have my sturdy boots, my cape.
Prepared. But it's late. The season's soon over.
Who can prepare? So many people, bunched, stricken. That grasshopper child!
Little leaper! Is she ours? No, ours long gone...
Look out for the roots. It's steeper now. That gulch is nearly vertical.
Would it be best if I went first? Or after?
I know the path is narrow. But how can I tell which way I will fall?


Are we Hansel-and-Gretel stupid? Thorns, brambles sprouting behind us—
Still, a path. Expect a cottage about now...
Don't joke—It's there! But stone, black-encrusted, ugly, door bolted, panes dark
with grit and sheen. In each window, hands, black palms,
hundreds crying "Let us out, let us out, we have waited a long time."
Never, incubi! Tricksters, self-sequestered,
self-sealed little maw-mouths. Never. I would sooner be eaten by wolves.

Wolves? What wolves? What incubi? I see no wolves.
In winter, snow glistens and melts in their fur. You say you hear no hands?
I don't see any hands. Or hear them, either.
I can never get behind your eyes. I know you by analogy.


I can't tell if the lake is gray, blue, gray-green? The huge moraine hides it.
Gray. Because the sky is gray, it must be gray.
It's hard to see the sky. There's shell and bone. It's hard to climb past bodies.
I see you, not the lake. You name its colors.
It gleams. We must lie down here. My cape is torn, but I spread it for you.

Shaune Bornholdt is a psychologist working in New York City. Her poetry has appeared in Hanging Loose and American Arts Quarterly. "The Climb to the Lake" began as a free verse monologue in Emily Fragos' class at Columbia, and was revised as a dialogue in syllabics for David Yezzi's prosody class.

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