Water, Water Everywhere

[audio link]

Children and pregnant women
should avoid eating yellow
perch, bluegill, inland trout.

No one should eat the muskie
from Lake Monona. Last summer,
boys dove into the lake’s belly

under a full moon. Behind them, the city
lit the shore, and from far away, I could see
what I was missing. After years

near the ocean, I’d been dreaming
of clean water surrounded by trees.
When I came home, I needed

a car to find that water.
On the shoulder of all the highways
I took to find it, the faces of bloated deer

were painted pink. Each road
was soaked with blood
until it rained. There were no children

running through the fields
as I’d imagined. The beach I live near
in the city is clean enough

for mallards, who live here year-round
and rest in pairs in the garden.
My backyard is big, but squirrels

empty the feeder before cardinals
can find it. Cats dig up my pansies.
Weeks after the screech owls nested

in the tree across the street, the tree
was sprayed blue and cut down.
I began counting

the feathered-bodies on curbs
and center-lines. As I drove
to work, watching the honey locust

lose its leaves, fall skipped winter
completely, and the lake,
cold as a restless baby,

was afraid to fall asleep.

Angela Voras-Hills
            from Echolocations, Poets Map Madison, Cowfeather Press, 2013