LAKE BIRDS OBSERVING BRUTAL IMAGINATION
Headline: “New Night of Horror In S. Carolina Lake as 7 Visitors Drown,” The New York Times, September 2, 1996
The lake birds know best, who comes and goes from the lake.
One eye open for the dozens that come on weekdays,
hundreds on weekends—all to see where her car went in.
Such pretty babies. I’d have taken them in a minute.
It was October when the car rolled in. November when
dragged out. Heads cocked they watched
the water-logged burgundy Mazda sink slow
and far into the depths. It took nine days to find it.
How deep does it get?
At eighteen feet the visibility is only twelve inches.
That damn bitch. I think she’s got problems. Big, mental problems.
Tourists come alone or in groups, leaving flowers,
money, toys for the drowned boys. They talk
to themselves, gape and gasp, wipe teary eyes,
go silent staring out over dark water.
I read that they were asleep in their car seats when she let them go.
I heard they were hollering at their momma, screaming for her.
Can you imagine?
Some come with cameras or draw pictures, try to stand
where she stood, look for the marks from her tires.
Their voices hush low, like they don’t want to startle
shadows holding the memory of that night. They all go
quiet after a while, when their questions have bled dry;
hold their breaths out for the ghosts:
Do you think she watched?
The water is long-fingered, bats its eyelashes, lures
the five piled into the truck. No sign they tried to stop
as it rolled off the ramp; dragged or beckoned,
is unknown. Two more drowned diving to save the
four children inside—one, their mother.
Union residents widen their paths around the lake,
take the long way around. Tourists still flock
for a way to connect with the water. A mother stands
at the waters edge, holds her daughter tight, says
Don’t let it touch you. The lights still burned when the truck
was found some eighty feet from the bank. Lake birds
gone into a frenzy. The mother and daughter watch
them and point to the trees: They know who’s responsible.
Erin Kae has been or will be featured in Fugue, The Susquehanna Review, and Terrain, among others (under the name Erin Koehler). Erin was recently nominated for the Pushcart Prize by Aster(ix) Journal, and was selected for the Adroit Journal Editor’s List for the 2015 Prize for Poetry.