by Al Maginnes
Already the first of the year has entered
the calm prayer of the lake and become
a part of it, his last essential song trapped
forever below the surface, blued syllables
(5) slipped from the vessel of his body.
They remain though the rest of him was
raised, pale, a creature of half-land, half-water.
Spring and summer claim their share
of drunken boaters, careless fishermen.
(10) But rarely this early in the year, this close
to shore. I know that bend of water, how shallow
it stands close to the bank. Only
the very drunk or unlucky, only one determined
not to rise would slide under and stay.
(15) When I was fourteen, a minister who professed
a home-brewed faith of his own sent
blurred photos of himself walking on water
to a newspaper. When a covey
of reporters came to see the feat repeated,
(20) the minister announced he could not
perform miracles in the face of such doubt.
He left the brown river untrod, returned
to his congregation whose prayers would
rise like floodwaters, unstopped by doubt.
(25) Deep in the gummy mud that is the lake's floor,
the last words of the drowned burrow
deeper than any prayers can reach, preserved
in water where no miracles come to pass.
I just want to focus on the first sentence of this poem, which spans several poetic lines.
"Already the first of the year has entered / the calm prayer of the lake and become / a part of it, his last essential song trapped / forever below the surface, blued syllables / slipped from the vessel of his body."
Maginnes has some interesting language here--interesting use of pronouns.
In the beginning we have the "first of the year" entering "the calm prayer of the lake." So the actor is the "first of the year," the action is entering. And what is the "first of the year" entering? "[T]he calm prayer of the lake." It isn't entering the lake, it is entering a prayer.
Then the "first of the year" "become[s] part of it." What is it? The lake? The calm prayer? The calm prayer of the lake? I think the answer is yes. Can you really separate a lake from it's calm prayer?
Then Maginnes uses the male pronoun--"his." As in "his last essential song trapped / forever below the surface." I am assuming that the his refers back to the "first of the year" since that is our character. The first of the year is a he?
Well, regardless, it is a beautiful, interesting line of poetry.