Iris Jamahl Dunkle
Finding Ballard Lake
What they said was we ruined the water
not we rewrote the land with dynamite
and the pulsing, yellow jaws of backhoes.
When they said rev up your mind, what they asked
was for you to contain a lake–call it
Gray’s or Ballard. Let it spill forth
over half a mile. Let it straddle
a hundred yards of earth. Cover its banks
with exclamations of ash and willow.
Dig it deep enough that catfish and bass
linger in the shadows. Then, let doubt
fill you like a balloon. Go belly up.
Try to recall the blue bloom of sky seen
from this angle: dark, cold water pressing,
no, holding you up; warm sun on your face.
To know is to dive deep into the sediment
of what is no longer possible to find.
Wait at the closest train station: Mt. Olivet
for someone who has a memory made from
spun clouds whose footsteps can stitch
back the lost route of Mark West Creek
whose sediment was used to fill in the lake,
the acres of low spots on the ranch.
When they ask you who ruined this place
answer with a tongue made of peach peels
and a mouth full of sewage. Your eyes backlit
with dynamite and the smooth shine of dirt.