“this has happened before / it will happen again.”
— David Arnason, Marsh Burning
Lake Winnipeg, I know you are sick, but congratulations—
you’re also famous. Even National Geographic wants your autograph.
It’s the Sunday night of Icelandic Festival,
and I have a feeling that I don’t belong, that the locals
want me to get out. They are sick of the hotdog carts.
You always hated how they looked—lined up on Main.
I remember when I was with you, I was local by proxy,
and I wanted the tourists to get out too.
I am here because of the way David Arnason wrote the lake.
Sometimes there is no event. I am only in the water, drowning.
I am here for one night in the Lakeside Hotel; I am here
to finish what Arnason started.
We parked by the beach at night, your headlights illuminating
the water; your head on my shoulder. The car covered in fishflies,
iridescent wings shimmering on the windshield. You explained
your leaving / but I don’t remember the words / only that your voice
and the lapping of the water were the same.
On a plaque in the Gimli Museum I read about the perseverance
of the colonists. I don’t see this history in the plastic Viking helmets
for sale. I find no trace of the people who lived around the lake.
I’m invasive as the zebra mussels—squinting at the faded murals
on the pier, sleeping in my rented bed. Some species have been here
so long we forget they are invasive. It has been so long, I forget
the pills I take are not really a part of me. I am not myself today
I am not myself. If we let something in and it stays long enough—
it will change us. I let you in and now look at me.
And look across the lake—Grand Beach, where two children
drowned this summer. I’ve been googling ‘Lake Winnipeg
deaths’ ever since. I am looking for reason. The mother, interviewed
on CBC, said it isn’t grief. / It isn’t anything.
The algae is as green as I was the first time I saw you
with someone else; the algae isn’t leaving. I thought you would
come back to me; we thought the lake would get better.
I have nothing to write. Arnason, how did you do it?
The lake is not listening, or perhaps will not answer.
I sit in Robin’s Donuts until midnight and return to my room
at the Lakeside. Nothing else is open in this town.
This is the same hotel where we had sex in a bathroom
on the third floor; I try to find that bathroom now but I can’t.
I’ve lost the direction, or the desire. Say it and make it happen.
An attendant asks if I’m lost and I don’t know how to say what I am
looking for; there is no way to explain how lost I am.
The harbour is dark and I stare out against it, willing
something to appear. It is the hold the mind takes on things.
I squint into the history of the lake, trying to finish
what Arnason started. But I don’t see an exit.
I can’t seem to find a way out.