This is Polynesia in the mitten, hidden past the trailers
where iron sky meets iron water.
We tread beaches like two lovers tread the bedroom, moving
slowly toward a point we both know.
Some days all I want is to press my hands against your chest,
lie against you as against the thin water.
Past the second break, my hands sink like shallow cups into
the calm blue.
We spread across the lake, two hawks perching on different
branches of the same tree.
I want to tell you the difference between tooth & skin or me
& wolf: I crave to lay my hands along your thighs,
under some open sky, out here along the shore,
with the gravel & headlights.
At night my skin burns for the coastline, the wind, dawn’s
rising orange billiard, the current knocking holes
in the sandbar.
I lie awake & rack my brain for that wet smell, that far off
ring of riggings on the flagpoles, for low howls, or ghosts,
for the logging ships cold pressed & caught for air, for
your movement on the board, your rush of tyranny over
With you, out here on this wind-burnt tunicate of earth, my
tongue is caught, a sunken vertebrate, some cast-off gull-
I know that beneath your suit is a body so warm & smooth
it should still this water further with every inch
of you that moves into it.
I know there are few bodies I could love more than those
shoulders, hard rock arched around Lake Superior.
I know these things are persistent & mutually exclusive.
Along these old lines, my stomach rolls on & on.
The highway cries behind us.
Russell Brakefield is the author of Field Recordings (Wayne State University Press, 2018). His writing has appeared in the Indiana Review, New Orleans Review, Poet Lore, Crab Orchard Review, Hobart, and elsewhere. He received his MFA in poetry from the University of Michigan’s Helen Zell Writers’ Program and has received fellowships from the University of Michigan Musical Society, the Vermont Studio Center, and the National Parks Department.
“Lake Surfing At Whitefish Point” first appeared in Michigan Quarterly Review in 2011 and was also featured in the anthology And Here: 100 Years of Upper Peninsula Writing, 1917–2017.
Look for new work from Russell Brakefield in TLR: Chemistry, the all-poetry issue, available now.