The Science of Spirit Lake

Derek Sheffield Click to

Derek Sheffield’s book of poems, Through the Second Skin (Orchises, 2013), was a finalist for the Washington State Book Award.  His poems have appeared in Poetry, The Georgia Review, Orion and The Southern Review.  He lives with his family in the foothills of the Cascades near Leavenworth, WA, and he is the poetry editor of

It’s the water’s pulse through line
and rod that judders in my hands, in fish
after fish whip-thrashed into air, into arms
and body and day’s heat, all day, day
after day, all summer, and into the net

where she stands to her waist
in the lake’s cool sway, and the lake
in lit wrinklings letting go as she
wades our catch to shore and kneels
and lays it flat to her measured board,

pinned beneath her sun-lined hands
as she bends to sex, clip, and scrape
while keeping it alive (gills fluttering
like the dream-caught eyes of children)
before she turns and splashes back.

And each as she stops to let her arms
fall open hangs there as if unable to let go
of her grasp or remember its own truth
of unnumbered shadows. When the life
(from who knows where) comes finally

shuddering back and it shiver-flits away,
a few scales are left to slowly tumble
and flash and become, like the clear seconds
it takes to watch them, indistinguishable
from the restless body that holds them.