On the quiet, sandy beaches of Lake Michigan
We build a fort from tree stumps and garbage bags.
We fill it with laughter and fear. We sit in a triangle and light
Discarded cigarette butts, dreaming ourselves into tomorrow.
We are tanned. We are wild. We are roaming the outskirts of
Our adult lives. We are growing. We are gliding.
We are pulling our future from the bottom of the
Lake with sand and silt and mucus of the womb.
We float on the intestine of a large black tire. It crashes
With the waves, docking our dreams and engulfing our youth.
Our parents watch from the bluff, responsible for dinner and dusk.
They feed us. We eat. We swim away from them and paddle back,
grabbing on to forearms and not letting go.
The undertow pulls us to the floor of the lake but
We hold on, clawing for life and stealing
Sharp breaths between waves.
We are swimmers but we are not strong.
We are travelers without a map.
We are locals but only for the season.
We are in between. We are adrift.
The sun rises and it sets into the dark, black edge of the world.
The moon lights up the cloudy sky. It shifts. It splits. It calls our names.
We answer with a chord. We watch it float on the water’s surface and blink away.
We fade. We lose touch. We swim upstream
While entire fortresses of bolted walls and sturdy steps are buried underground.
We forget the beaches for a spell and then return
With new life crawling in the sand.
We write a letter to the past and throw it into the fire.
No one answers. No one replies.
But up here, we are never alone.
Up here, the moon, the dunes, the waves: they know us. They built us.
They pulled us under and dragged us to this shore.
We will walk its rocky coast until we die.
Dang, that poem is powerful!
When not writing poetry and non-fiction, Alison Bolen is an editor for SAS Institute, a developer of analytics software and one of the world’s largest private software companies. Mansfield was blessed to have Alison as part of its literary community for years. She is now living in New York with her husband and three children.