Emily Tuszynska: "Midnight on Rollins Pond"





We leave a lantern to mark our return 

and push off, keel grinding over pebbles, 

then swaying free into buoyancy.

How strange, canoeing the star-strewn

shallows. Night sky hangs beneath the bow, 

yet the paddles are brought up short 

by gritty sand mere inches

beneath the void. Then the bottom drops away

and we glide out of gravity’s reach, 

straightening our path with feathered strokes. 


The water laps against the hull with some 

intimate message we can’t quite 

decipher. What we know of ourselves

is so small. A cramped closet one gradually 

kneels to enter, and we spend our lives there. 


But tonight the lake is the smooth center 

of a black flower that blooms in darkness, 

black trees and black sloping hills unfurled 

on all sides like petals. Space enlarges, 

as when an outer door opens in another room 

and air shifts throughout a house. 


The line back to our daylight selves stretches taut, 

fraying like the lantern’s long beam. 

Is this what it is to exist without a body? 

Not lessened, but dispersed into some expanse, 

the body an empty hull rocking gently 

on a boundless, mirrored surface?

Even our names rinsed out like water.


Emily Tuszynska's poems have appeared in a number of journals, including Crab Orchard Review, Natural Bridge, Poet Lore, and Rhino. Her work has received three Pushcart nominations, an Earle Birney prize, and a Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg prize, and she has been supported by fellowships from the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts and the Vermont Studio Center.