Poetry: The Life of a Lake and Mary Oliver’s When Death Comes

I promised you more poetry. I promised you more intimacy and openness. I promised you words of beauty by other poets and words attempting to be beautiful by me.

Here is where I make good on that promise.

I went to Oregon and returned with a head full of inspiration and a journal full of poems. Here’s one about what I found in Fish Lake, which held neither fish nor water.

We went to Fish Lake and found neither fish nor a lake, and I'm ok with that.

Fish Lake.

The Life of a Lake

by Lauren Marie Fleming

I came to see a lake
but it was gone,
its contents drained long before
she said she needed Water,
a purification of sorts,
an easing of the long stretch of dryness life has become for both of us.

she said, returning to me,
sad faced and sullen,
hope for resurrection seeping through the porous volcanic sediment,
flowing hidden,
only to return again as bits of herself,
trickling down rocks into streams that will dry
long before reaching our desert home.

I said, “not empty,”
walking into the lake, feeling the water rush over me,
invisibly quenching my thirst,
soaking my soul as I search for
not gone
but dispersed
deep into the core.
The ground still moist,
Purple Flowers beckoning me
to the center of
a meadow
that once was a lake.

She’s right behind me,
but I am alone,
save for my Purple Flower Friend,
a bloom whose lifespan is even shorter than his was,
the young man who is always
just below the surface,
himself emptied of his life force,
liquid rejuvenation seeping out,
this time through towels, blankets,
It also there, hidden,
But he left no meadow.
There are no Purple Blossoms in his stead.

I whisper, feet grounded to the freshness of my loss, the ground’s loss,
both of us still moist, preparing
for the inevitable return of the storm clouds.
Now, though, we are free from the torrents,
from the watershed that consumes and drowns us,
free to enjoy the last rays of summer before the dark days of November

I turn around and smile
at her,
this person who met me drenched in my own tempest,
the One I am afraid will rot in my flood
or seep away into the volatile volcanic rock that now makes up
my once granite core.
I want to build her shelter.
I want to grab my Purple Flower Friend in one hand,
her whole being in the other,
and run for cover.
But I cannot uproot beauty,
and I cannot stop the seasons from changing.
November will come and my shelter will crumble.
The lake will fill.
My flower will die.
My heart will break again.

But she could be a constant.
Love could be a constant.
Or maybe instead,
Love is a dry lake,
a place where life blooms and grows and continues,
even when empty.

She turns twenty-seven tomorrow.
I am thirty.
We are newly formed,
still forming,
as juvenile as the ground beneath our feet,
seedlings stuck between walls of granite,
trying to grow.
We stand in an historic place,
cut by ice, filled by fire,
formed by water,
and she holds my hand,
beckoning me away from my Purple Flower Friend,
out of the depths of a dry lake,
back to our predetermined paths,
where we will experience the power of fluidity
as playful water cascades off youthful, porous rocks,
flexible in its destination,
flexible in a way I yearn to be,
moving with time,
rejuvenation found in the seasons,
strength in change.

She will take my hand and we will go
smooth translucent bodies of serenity,
youthful lakes, full of depth,
even when seemingly shallow.
And I will always have the memory of my Purple Flower Friend
and the moment I found fulfillment
in an empty, dry lake bed.


More about Fish Lake:




Before writing my poem, I happened upon a billboard, explaining Fish Lake and displaying Mary Oliver’s When Death Comes. It felt appropriate, not only did Alex (with whom I was traveling) first introduce me to Mary Oliver, but we had just the night before spent a long while talking about the glory of her poems with a group of my friends.

So many of Mary Oliver’s poems fill me to the brink of bursting with inspiration, a warmth rising in my stomach and shouting at me to be as I am meant to be: wild and free.

This poem came to me at a moment I desperately needed to feel the flame of desire. This poem inspired me to not only be a visitor of this dry lake bed of life, but to walk boldly into its depths, let the water flow around me, and write down all that I felt.

It reminded me of what my soul yelled at me the day I watched my brother die, the thing I promised myself I would do before I too faced my inevitable immortality: write, as often as possible, as truthful as possible, share with the world everything living inside of me.

So I did, in the above poem.

When Death Comes

When death comes
like the hungry bear in autumn;
when death comes and takes all the bright coins from his purse

to buy me, and snaps the purse shut;
when death comes
like the measle-pox;

when death comes
like an iceberg between the shoulder blades,

I want to step through the door full of curiosity, wondering:
what is it going to be like, that cottage of darkness?

And therefore I look upon everything
as a brotherhood and a sisterhood,
and I look upon time as no more than an idea,
and I consider eternity as another possibility,

and I think of each life as a flower, as common
as a field daisy, and as singular,

and each name a comfortable music in the mouth,
tending, as all music does, toward silence,

and each body a lion of courage, and something
precious to the earth.

When it’s over, I want to say: all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.

When it’s over, I don’t want to wonder
if I have made of my life something particular, and real.
I don’t want to find myself sighing and frightened,
or full of argument.

I don’t want to end up simply having visited this world.

-Mary Oliver, New and Selected Poems, Volume 1

I want this plastered on my wall.

I want this plastered on my wall.

About Queerie Bradshaw

Lauren Marie Fleming is a writer, speaker and motivator known for her intimate, informative and often hilarious look at sex, relationships and body-image. Lauren runs the critically-acclaimed QueerieBradshaw.com blog, writes for major news sources including VICE, Nerve, Huffington Post and Curve, and is the author of her memoir Losing It: My Life as a Sex Blogger. In 2013, Lauren founded Frisky Feminist Press (FriskyFeminist.com) as a way to enhance conversations about sexuality through educational guides, online classes and entertaining publications. A law school graduate, Lauren has spoken all over the United States and is internationally recognized for her dynamic, engaging style. In everything she does, Lauren’s goal is to educate, remove stigmas and encourage people to achieve their desires.
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