The captain stands still, silhouette playing
through the haunted trees of us all.
He has yet to make up his mind,
hands chipped on the rocks,
eyes embedded in the island's skin
where he died many years ago.
The SS Earnslaw steams ahead six times a day,
'Tickets please.' Smiles billow out in triumph.
Passengers raise cameras in prayer.
They have come through the hopeful pass.
Something entirely new is waiting.
An ancient warrior is on a pale horse,
riding in the mountains of our minds.
Laughter rolls along a windy willow face.
Much of life has been eaten in the gorge
of late autumn dreams and postcards.
The captain's feet are far from the town,
held together by a pub of lonely drinkers,
remnants of farm life before tourism
tailored up the captain's calm clothing.
He sighs. Weather quickly changes.
Rain washes him clean to the bone.
The smallest lake holds back in the mountains,
only introduced to those who walk in,
steep tracks among soft dew clouds.
A few swim in ice-breddled cold.
Teeth chatter the purity of emotion,
rather than, 'jeez, freezes my vitals off.'
The lake never laughs or issues a warning,
only too pleased to nullify statistics,
drawn together by the artist of mystery:
why it is a fishless lake,
why it has never been boated in.
Rumours say that the single boat disappeared,
claimed by a large creature of the deep,
never seen by anyone in sober water.
Claims are drunkenly whispered,
'I saw the beast in the depth of night,
mouth open like a whale,
able to eat us in a single chuckling gulp.'
A company to visit the monster went bankrupt,
recording the less interest on record.
The lake murmurs in the setting of rain,
massaging the watery curls of its head,
relaxing the vein’s high currents,
tongue licking long in the bed.
‘I see beyond every promise you make.’
Clouds descend like children.
I am the youthful lake.
My head is a concrete dam.
Weeping eyes nearby
become a tight river,
I am the narrow lake.
Cars are at my side.
They flash by to relatives
who never diet,
laked in forgetfulness.
I am the lake of tidiness,
hair manicured by engineers.
Faces race by the convinced,
gathering for sales,
I am the polite lake,
washing up breathless bodies
without a thank you
or heroism award.
Why they swim out beats me.
I am the lake of spirits,
heavily drunk for relief.
Hangovers are waterfalls,
landing on the tenderly,
kissed and forgotten.
I am the contrite lake.
Forgive me should I leak on you,
into farms and small towns.
A dark awesome sky hangs
judgment over us all.
I am the lake of hope.
I whisper to the ill-tempered
whose hands lie on throats,
squeezing the earth's skin
I am the ugly lake,
baby of the plains,
loved by all others.
Hands pat head waters.
You listen and smile.
Stone Lake is mined by the high country,
rawly framed on the mineral market,
freshly bare ones opening up
in the fallout of consequences.
Divers explore hand felt depths.
New discoveries are held back.
Stones become life,
turning over in the current.
Watery composition is tuned fine.
Nobody bathes on Stone Beach.
This is forthright cattle country -
even they are cautious,
let alone the sheep restlessly waiting
for water to be brought to them.
Each sheep has a thankless story,
broken legged ancestors stoned down.
A solitary tree stands,
having brought in its own soil.
The tree was humoured through customs
who are convinced it won't last.
They are already right.
The tree sags before growing up,
written off by a smart-alec,
Lakenders grow on history's shore,
preferring to farm their own one,
seldom singing or water dancing.
Art shows are the closest
to ceremony in Lakelands.
Groups might gather, then break up.
Management recognises profit is outweighed
by a growth in market costs,
particularly with singers out of tune,
slurring in clouds above one syllable.
Litter is the famous group,
open air concerts packed.
'Foreigners,' Lakenders sniff,
'cash or credit cards please.'
The lakes are never surprised
by what comes into their stomach,
hooked fish, dismembered corpses
they get sick of, bloated remains,
releasing to relatives in relief.
Tradesmen quotes are higher
than flood measurements,
notably in pipes to the snow
where wires chatter.
True Lakelanders are on the highest slopes,
the steeper they are the greater the belief
of spirits flying, not a single hangover.
Lakes forthrightly acknowledge
if a house is on the slide.
'You really are a Lakelander.'
Documentaries grow on the Lakelands.
Water stares at cameras, yawning.
Viewers wait for a commercial break.
'We must head south sometime.
You never know what we'll find.'