The lake in Francine Prose’s Goldengrove
By Ashley Bethard
I dive off the dock into the wild shimmer of lake and my feet catch air until they are kicking, kicking through the cool thickness of water, kicking down, down as I swim to the bottom, hold my breath until it cannot be held anymore, cradled like a child who is not really a child at all, but something too big for its own skin, splitting flesh like sun-rotted fabric from my grandmother’s attic.
I let it burst inside me, the slippery viscosity of lung lying like pink shreds of popped bubblegum in a hollow chest, framed only by pillars of rib, bone glowing neon, its glare the loudest lakebottom thing, water rushing into me, the movement a roar but the sound silent, and my eyes turn up to catch surface light, twinkling like silver dollars for one last time, one last time until breath isn’t only impossible but unnecessary. But the body’s memory strives to hold on, twitches, limbs jerking as they try to remember to do the things they were made to do, and if you’ve ever fought death you know that the body fights for life, to keep itself alive, because that’s the way bodies are built.
My soul grows gills and sleeps in daylight buried deep beneath bottommuck, the clay and rotting leaves a seal of silence around it. The moon calls me out, its silver-white meeting the lake surface with a blinding reflection, a sheet of glass, a lid to trap, and I forget to live or die now, body gone, and all I want to do is sing songs to the moon.
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