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lake monsters

Fishing about in my brainpool for a suitable title and theme of my next poetry column, I hooked a big one.  You know the beast, one of those grandiose whoppers that gives birth to legends.  Despite the magnitude of its dimensions, it is a little odd as a subject for a group of poems, yet that has never stopped me before.  In fact, it only seems to encourage me.  And now that I think of it, perhaps it is high time for a column that is rather outlandishly off the track and around the bend.  I do love a good venture into the Land Of Odd.  Also known as Tinker Town, Bananasplitsville, Coconuts City,  Cotton Candy Land, Crackpottersville, Battyburg, Madhatterton, Who’s Whoville . . . the kind of places I am most likely to write on a cardboard sign and stand beside the road hitchhiking to — in a parallel galaxy where mice are men and men are meeses, which are like mooses without the horns.  Not that I am trying to give the impression I’m weird, because I am most emphatically not!  Well, I am weird, don’t get me wrong, but that has nothing at all to do with lake monsters.  Then again, you never know.  I try to keep an open mind about such possibilities, in case I should ever meet a lake monster or be abducted by aliens or find a fly in my soup.  I have found cockroaches in my soup, incidentally, although that is another topic entirely and would be more appropriate in a different column.

Don’t mind me, I’m just being myself, or as close to it as I can considering that weirdness doesn’t actually have an official description or dress code or hairstyle or shoe size or instruction manual . . .  So how should I know how to be, and who can say how or who I really am?  It’s a bit of a One-Size-Fits-All category.  Weirdos are lumped under a single polka-dotted umbrella as offbeatniks.  But you really can’t say that anything abnormal and out of the ordinary is one way or another, can you?  Wouldn’t generalizing it be contradictory in a sense, when being weirdos would imply that we are very unlike anyone, including each other?  Okay, this might be making too much sense for one of my nonsense rambles.  I think I am dangerously close to coming to a point.  Not a pinhead sort of point, the other kind.  No, not the type you get when you sharpen a pencil.  And before you suggest it, not a dot on a map either!  Or a decimal point!  Let’s just change the subject and get back to what we weren’t discussing in the first place, shall we?

Don’t ask me what that was.  My memory is notoriously full of holes.  Just picture the moon being made of Swiss Cheese.  That’s my brain.  It may look like a sponge but it’s not.  It’s Swiss Cheese.  Without the cheese.

I’m not sure where I’m going with any of this, because I tend to be a bit stranger than fiction, if you get my drift.  And I do drift.  Oh how I drift.  But back to the matter at hand, which is . . . ah-ha, lake monsters.  (I cheated and peeked at the top of the page.)  Seriously, what is this about?  It’s rather loopy, even for me.  And not loopy in a loup-garou sort of way — that would be pretty silly since we’re supposed to be discussing a far less furry crypto-critter.

Well, who can be certain that werewolves and lake monsters are not related to some degree?  If you think about it, lycans and lichens sound an awful lot like cousins, and everyone knows that a lichen is just a fluffy version of a waterlily.  So who’s to say that a wolfman is not a lake monster’s hairy kin?  One might in fact deem him a lake monster while he’s taking a bath.  Never thought about that, now did you?  Exactly.

Okay, I don’t want to appear flaky or crusty or even slightly crumbly.  I am not baked goods.  But I am going to make an editorial decision here, as opposed to poetic license, and bail on the afore-mentioned theme.  It simply isn’t working out, so please disregard the title up there.  And whatever I’ve said thus far.  Pretend it never happened.  I’m too lazy to start over.  (Sorry, there are no refunds available for the minutes lost in reading the above.)  We shall segue into something else . . . once I’ve made up my mind what we’re actually talking about.  There must be a better choice out there, floating around in the ether like those squiggly blobs that swim in front of our eyes.  We’ll pause and wait for it to splat us in the face.

Oh, quit your complaining!  There are plenty of things to read that make sense!  If you’ve ever been to my previous poetry columns, you must know that I do not always feel the need to go on and on about something.  Going on about nothing can be very cathartic.  It allows you to meditate; just be careful not to premeditate — that could get you into trouble.  It could even be held against you in a court of law.  Clear your head and enjoy the mindless emptiness of meaning that my column provides.

Where were we?  Or rather, where were we not?  Waiting?  Right!  I knew that.

Nothing so far.  But we all knew that.  Let’s see, where are we going with this?  You may think it paradoxic to be going somewhere with nothing, but I assure you it is possible.  Not everyone can pull that off.  It’s a tricky proposition.  Or preposition.  Or premonition.  Whatever.  Now I have Déjà Vu and my head hurts from thinking too hard.  You can’t force these things.  They’re either there or they’re somewhere else.  Who knows where?  In a lake, perhaps.

That title is looking better.

There are so many theories on lake monsters, approximately as many as there are lakes.  I could probably find something unnoteworthy to say about them if I really tried.  It’s back to the lake for us!

If you’re still with us, that is.  And if you are, maybe I’m not the only one whose brain is like Swiss Cheese.  Just a thought.

Soooo, are you certain I haven’t scared you away with my frightfully off-the-wall drivel?  It can happen!  Now and then I scare myself away.

Ha, there, it just happened!  Except I wasn’t scared, I fell asleep.  After a nice nap, that title doesn’t seem so bad at all.  I believe you can anticipate a few poems to do with, well, you know.  It could even be the weirdest column yet.  One can hope!  One can also wonder . . . when you gaze into the lake, is anything looking back?

Beneath your reflection.

I’m not referring to fish.

Or frogs.

Or turtles.

Or mudpuppies.

A minnow is a fish.  I said no fish.

Ditto for a bullhead.

And a catfish.  Despite the whiskers.  Still a fish.

Ignore the dead bloated guy.

And the Atlanteans.

Forget the Sea Monkeys.  They don’t even live in lakes!

Noooo, clams do not count.  For one thing, where are their eyes?

Crabs?  Are there lake crabs?  Yes, they do have eyes, don’t they?  But I didn’t mean crabs, and now I am getting quite crabby!  Nevermind, just nevermind!  I withdraw the question.  Read some poems.

 

 

    lake monster

 

She lurks in the drink, a sweet-water pet

The kind you might not be sure to have met

Elusive as Bigfoot, a popular myth

Every lake has its legend on one of her kith

A tarn in the highland became her home

When an oddity left Mother’s side to roam

She swam to the mountains and there would stay

Diving and splashing, a figment at play

For such fabled beings are like unicorns

Rumored and rare, yarns of tails and horns

Chimeric and lithe, a creature of whim

A fanciful mystery, a history most grim

For she ate a few chaps fishing from a small boat

When they reeled in her lunch, deep in her throat

And she opened wide to expel the trouts

But swallowed the men beyond any doubts

Their craft was discovered, an empty shell

Inspiring the tales that wives like to tell

As folklore would have it, she was fierce and sly

A man-eating monster, who was actually shy

And only ate people by a tragic mistake

Yet once was enough for the story to take

Her renown would be sealed, and the price of fame

Was losing her privacy, acquiring a name

The locals would dub her by the beast’s lofty lair

Mad Minnie for Lake Minnewonka’s fantastic bugbear

Her shore became crowded with goggling fans

The kind who sought snapshots of catch-as-catch-cans

Which drove her to the bottom of a frothy pool

Reclusive, notorious, inclined to drool

Unable to frolic, afraid to show her face

A very Sad Minnie would curl up at the base

Or glide through the depths like a submarine

To emerge at night by the moon’s dull sheen

If the coast were clear, using stealth and care

Tuned for beeps and pings, an unblinking stare

Then smack the surface with a jubilant tail

Make waves, cause ripples, lunge out like a whale

Giggling and capricious, a child in a bath  —

Snorts of glee echoed as if on the warpath

Convulsing tree boughs and soaking the bank

Heaving caution to the wind with herself to thank

And spectators camped by the lake would arise

To shine spotlights in the poor critter’s eyes

Blinded, keenly startled, she panicked and dove

For the craggish floor of the alpine cove

Where her cranium collided on a jutting rock

She collapsed to the bed, very stunned by the knock

Blood spilled to the water and darkened its hue

Teams of science geeks jumped in, turning blue

Half couldn’t swim but the other half found her

Together they looped several lassos around her

The locals and gawpers all pitched in to raise

The titanic young dragon to resounding praise

They attempted reviving her; she lay cold and still

Was Minnie dead?  Through the crowd passed a chill

No heartbeat was detected, no breath puffed to steam

They sat in a vigil holding hands with one dream . . .

By morning she was gone, having stolen away

And did not return for she’d swum far astray

Perhaps she was seen on another lake

In a distant land, sailing mists like a drake

Or flat and lengthy as a drifting log

To vanish by magic between gusts of fog

A solitary figure, stately and discreet

Moving like a ghost ship that lost its fleet.

 

 

    fishbait

 

The lake is still upon the surface

With nary a ripple out of place

Hugging her shoreline wrapped securely

In a glassen cloak of captive grace

As night solemnly joins land to water

And a mysterious realm can unfold

It is then the lake reveals its depths

Of emerald beauty, allure untold

Her mouth yawns widely to engulf

Any unsuspecting random spirit

If you value life as precious

You had better not step near it

For the lake heeds not your feelings

Waiting patient and subtle to imbibe

With a watery glimmer of disregard

Giving off a tender treacherous vibe

 

She can drag you squirming to her belly

Entwine your limbs in drowning plants

And paralyze with a frosty embrace

As your breath escapes in pants

The bubbles ascend to the surface

From a bleak and nasty underside

While you rue the fateful steps that led

Too near the water, this downward slide

Sucked within her lips and jaws

You cannot escape the foul wet bite

Of turbid teeth and hook-like claws

As she tucks you in for a kiss goodnight

The lake will drain your bodyheat

With frigid contact, she grants no wish

But will nibble you to bits and pieces

Until you are chum, the bait of fish.

 

 

    the creature

 

It was a black lagoon beside a dead lake

Of ghastly sluggish waters from which protruded,

Like worked-to-the-bone fingers of a failed success,

The rotted extremities and stumps of trees submerged

In the changing tides of industrial climates.

 

Such trivial concerns long overlooked in the course

Of history, of centuries that marched in legions

Like armies to conquer flesh, harness fire and wind,

Unleash disaster from sky and summit, roar obscenities,

As if by dragonbreath or divine unholy wrath.

 

Laying to ruin the stormed barricades of stone,

The embattled ranks of wood and trampled stalks

That clung defenseless, rooted in soil shifting to sands

From down within the bowels of tormented earth, for nothing

Built or born, however imperious, was impervious to change.

 

Here lurked the truth, a confession of damming evidence

Stacked up in layers — sticks and stones, mud and corpses

At the bottom line of humanity versus nature and nurture,

Whatever kind of nature might be left in a grim age,

Beneath the surface of what was and what should be.

 

A creature evolved mad with full-grown enmity and eyes

Opened to the greed, the transgressions of those like him

On two legs who were not condemned by gills or scales,

By monstrous differences to exist apart, below the civilized —

If the destroyers of worlds could be so defined.

 

Emerged whole, crawlen out of a fetal griefstruck womb

Throbbing with the pulse of cosmic and poetic justice,

He swam then climbed the slope onto the inlet’s berm.

Resting there, testing appendages, he wobbled to stand

Upon webbed toes and stagger forth in the realm of men.

 

Walking on dry land with wet legs, he left a swampy abode

To trace a solid stream that trembled with a rushing current,

Until he must hurl himself to the side and watch

A ghost of man-driven metal rampage through darkness,

Orbs gleaming, expelling a stench of noxious fumes.

 

He curled, hunched and brooding, in terror;

Summoned by circumstance to embark on this ordeal,

The solo alien odyssey of passage, of transformation.

Suffocating, his resolve to search overwhelming,

He endured, beholding enigmas, struggling on.

 

The creature matured with a wild innocence

As he tread firm ground in confidence, conviction,

Crossing a desert of arid intensity in every direction.

Eyelids sagging, hooded by glare; the pace brisk at night,

He survived, a fish out of water, adapting to foreign land.

 

A city’s hulking skeleton loomed, rewarding labored steps,

An arduous journey of blistered feet and parchment skin.

Shrunken, diminished in the company of ravaged leviathans,

He peered upward at vacant towers, vertical wreckage,

To discover himself encircled, a ring of shadows.

 

They were the children of Pathos and Chaos,

The permuted metamorphic spawn of Progress.

They had gathered, drawn like him to seek community,

For it was an instinctive need of even the the most estranged

Or isolated soul, to not be alone in the universe.

 

Each one of a kind, without a species in common,

Rendered by a generic maker, the creation of abrasive deeds.

Curiosities, atrocities, with a variety of distinctions;

Unique, anomalous, none of them the same;

Kernels of warped matter, mutations of a man-made Hell . . .

Who were the real monsters?

 

 

    Bessie

 

Before you jump into a lake

You may wish to look before you leap,

For you never know what might jump out

Or be lurking in the murky deep.

 

Take care along the water’s edge

For a snapping mouth could take a bite;

There are many things that may go wrong —

I suggest you back away outright!

 

And it isn’t merely lakes to fear,

There are monsters lurking everywhere . . .

A stormdrain, river, creek, or shower;

A glass of water will cause a scare.

 

The greatest danger I’ve come across

Was in the humblest of places:

A puddle of mud on a plain dirt lane

Put my heartbeat through its paces.

 

I was minding my own business once

And splashed a foot into the muck.

You can imagine my immense dismay

When my shoe grew rather stuck.

 

It wasn’t that the mire was sticky

Or the puddle muddled with a patch of briars;

I stepped into a monster’s chops

And needed a pair of pliers.

 

She had swallowed my entire foot

And wouldn’t give it back!

I thought I’d have to learn to walk

One-footed from the lack.

 

I scrutinized my situation,

Then tried to reason with the beast.

“I need that foot!” I told her.

“So please interrupt your feast!”

 

I named her Bessie in order that we

Might be properly introduced.

She wasn’t inclined to release my piggies,

And I pondered how to get myself loosed.

 

She muttered with her mouth full

That a mudbath was no wishing well.

She may have said some other things

But I really couldn’t tell.

 

“You aren’t making any sense.

Don’t talk around your food.”

I demanded that she spit it out,

For the puddle-shark was rude!

 

“I’m attached to those toes,

And it’s my favorite heel.

They’re not yours to keep!

I mean, how would you feel?”

 

I carped, “It’s my best shoe too,

So I insist that you stop!

Give me back my foot, thief,

Or I’ll call a traffic cop!”

 

I shamed the ornery anklebiter

With a testy spew of grouching.

“And what are you supposed to be?

Stand up straight, quit slouching!”

 

She expelled my tootsie then,

Blatting in a snittle-fit huff

With tremendous indignation

That she’d heard about enough.

 

The cranky krakenous hybrid

Unreeled from her shallow slop,

Extending an endless profusion

Of eelish neck that ceased to stop.

 

Perhaps the height was finite,

But it seemed to climb forever,

Like a beanstalk to the heavens

Or an example twice as clever.

 

“I’ll have you know you stepped on me!”

A faraway voice grumbled.

“Let’s call an ox an ox,” she barked,

“And admit it was you who bumbled!”

 

“That’s a load of hogwashed nerve!”

My jaw hung open, catching flies.

“You’re jealous of me for being short!”

The retort evoked surprise.

 

“You think I’m envious of you?

I can write on the sky!” touted Bessie.

“I’m a big monster in a little pond,

And much prettier than Nessie!”

 

“You’re nothing but a hippocrite —

A puddle serpent with her head in the clouds,

Who dreams of swimming with the big fish,

An inflated pack of snooty highbroweds!”

 

The behemoth truly had it coming,

Yet it wasn’t very nice to say.

My words cut Bessie down to size,

And a salamander crept away.

 

 

    a fish named frog

 

Things can be muddled, horrendously confused

From life imitating art or death while we snoozed

Maybe all of our dreams are regrets in reverse

And the thoughts in our heads but a fairytale curse

Like a song in our mind that gets broken and stuck

At times a bad break can turn into good luck

Perhaps a fish named frog isn’t nearly as crazy

As trying to see truth when your lenses are hazy

 

The world is like a pearl in a shiny oyster shell

With naught guaranteed between Heaven and Hell

There may be woolly monsters or a clump of moss

What we pull from the hat could be an albatross

Just stay out of the water when you jump in the lake

And don’t ever say never or the earth might quake

It’s the fine print of rules that will drive you insane

These fishes named frogs are purely inane.

 

But you can’t plant a violet and push up a daisy

Or jump over the moon if you’re feeling too lazy

The sky may be overcast on a clear blue day

A clam could be sad, yet a lighter shade of gray

And you’ll never stand taller than the bird in your eye

You cannot walk much softer than the heart of a pie

A fish on your shoulder as you gargle out of tune

Means your voice is froggier than a yodeling balloon

 

If monsters had middle names and goldfish dreamed of legs

There’d be urchins in the pond hatched from dinosaur eggs

Let us gallop like scallops on the backs of water stallions

Rapscallions trotting after in a herd of Spanglish galleons

And none would be the wiser for we paddle our own canoes

Call the fishes what you please, it’s your turn to pick and choose

Just don’t juggle with the turtles or make fun of a zebra’s spots

There are rules to be contorted into lovely bows and knots

 

Regardless who you are, you shouldn’t argue with yourself

Leave the attitude at home, the complaint jar on the shelf

Brush those chips off your shoulder, the crumbs off your lap

Never tiptoe in reverse or walk on hands without a map

Don’t wear a bottom-hat to the opera, pajamas over a coat

Let your counting sheep run off but never let them get your goat

Lend your socks to an octopus when removing every doubt

And be sure to skip the rope, for it won’t lend you any klout

 

I’ve forgotten about frogs, or were we talking about fishes?

It is impolite to mumble when making your three wishes

Countless axioms are moot unless you maximize your addage

Then subtract the difference between a turnip and a cabbage

If you have a carrot top, you can always join the aside-show

Where nothing is straightforward, except where babybuggies go

And that fishes may be frogs if they were once in time a tadpole

Therefore, guppies can be puppies if they learn to dig a hole.

 

 

    Lady

 

There are ballads and chronicles of females in lakes

Benign, wicked, an enchantress or harsh mistress

Poised between angels and she-devils they wait

Like ballerinas captive in a wind-up music box

Suspended in motion, preserved in memory

There for the asking by those in need or want

Of a momentary comfort, a crystalline indulgence

But the lake is a chill and demanding lord

For an elegant lady — flesh cool, eyes glittery

Glimpsed like jewels through a lucid tea

Strands of hair fanning, spread in a majestic cloud —

She cannot breathe underneath its cloak of waves

The bubbles are her drowning chain of commands

A shimmering trail of last gasps, unheard sighs

As the lake tows her down, down, down . . .

Spinning, twirling like a dancer, eyes wide

Into the pit of her confinement, a glass coffin

That only the bottommost-dwellers can see

Nestled on a bed of shells, interred like a queen

To awaken and greet visitors with a regal smile

An icy touch or stare, a beautiful siren’s welcome

Until then she rests, her hands modestly folded

In classic repose like a fairytale princess

Features unperturbed, absent of expression

Her dreams the nightmares of a fractured predestined fate

An indentured servant to a body of ageless drops

The pool of lost hopes and shattered illusions

Dredged by vast sorrows spilled into a glacier’s footprint

Wept by the mother of Time, collected like rain in a jar

In turn a fair lady was chosen to wallow in its tears

Demurely offer solace and sharp blades with a statue’s calm

The composure of a department-store mannequin

Frozen in a gesture as she is locked

Though she undulates toward the air like current

And exudes the lissome grace of a swan

Do not be fooled by appearances for she

Is less content to be window-dressing

A symbolic slave to the travails of womanhood

Exalted yet imprisoned, becoming a nymph

In all but spirit, for that has died and been embalmed

The lake her grave, a watery vault, the lady’s tomb

She cannot escape its grasp, the walls of the crypt

Blurred eyes no longer pierce this veil of dark and light

Her burial shroud of liquid envelops like a net

Surrounding a dolphin or porpoise, trapping a whale

Her screams and misery are silently contained

In limbo, within the velvet fathoms of the lake.

Authors: 
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