A solitary man rows on a lake, mid-May.
The summer houses are empty but one
where a couple sits on the dock
and watch his movements, the elegant line
his canoe makes, sending small ripples
to shore, the dock moves beneath them.
He is closing the distance and can make out
the color of their hats, the shape of a glass.
Behind them a line of sheets ripple,
making small thunders.
Lilac air smells of desire;
its absence in his life he feels
as real as the cool water that splashes
up on his hands, the wood beneath him.
The air turns cold and light shifts.
The couple run to gather in the sheets,
screen door banging behind them.
He can follow their laughter all the way upstairs.
Their old house, Journeys End, settles
into the ground, proper for its age;
stone foundation rounded like pillows.
The house reddens in the sunset.
He imagines he hears something—a tiny cry,
and stops paddling. Lying back,
he eases himself into the shape of the canoe
as if it were designed for his exact dimensions.
He rests his head on the life jacket and where
he was going was always here.
This poem previously appeared in Memoir Journal.
Kathleen Fagley is a graduate of New England College’s MFA program in poetry. Her chapbook, How You Came to Me, was published in July 2012 by Finishing Line Press as a finalist in the New Women’s Voices Series. She has had poetry published in The Stillwater Review, Memoir Journal, Cutthroat, The Comstock Review and others. She lives in Keene, New Hampshire with her husband Paul and teaches babies and toddlers in the Child Development Center at Keene State College.