Sestina (A Ghost Story)

Elinor Ann Walker

It’s been a while since I’ve been up to the lake, but I remember well how its surface can look so different, murky-dark or green-slate glass. Its stillness is deceptive unless you stare a while. Then you’ll see how much rises up, the signs beneath the surface, minnows, rings

of air ascending; those ever-widening rings remind me of the time they dragged the lake. A boy had disappeared. His mother never gave up. Months went by. There was nowhere else to look. People said for years she came back to stare at the place as if he might still be alive, but the glass

surface mirrored only her face in its watery glass of sorrow. It’s the kind of terrible story that rings true only because we all know that if you stare out long enough, you’ll see more than the lake. You have to pay attention, learn how to look longer at each splash. Fish jump; the turtles are up

on half submerged logs. To get to the lake, I drive up the gravel road past the market selling glass trinkets, key chains, bait, & beer. I don’t look along the banks where I said I’d lost the ring because I didn’t lose it. I hurled it into the lake like a pebble. It was the only way to stare down that fate. I’m pretty sure people stare at me across the room. They think I’m up to no good. I leave parties to drive to the lake when I shouldn’t be driving, after one glass too many. I navigate easily by the bright ring around the moon. I know the exact look

of each landmark. In the rear-view, I look for objects that are closer than they appear. Stare hard always; arrive, get out, walk the long dock. Rings of water. Signs of life. I call the silver minnows up through the darkness to the surface, the glass edge between water, sky, beauty, terror, the lake

& me. Now the moon looks like a ring on the water. I stare until I see you. The lake stirs. Are you waving? I am coming up to break the surface like glass.

Elinor Ann Walker’s recent work is featured or forthcoming in Whale Road Review, Nimrod International Journal, Juniper - A Poetry Journal, The Orchards Poetry Journal, The Rappahannock Review, Black Bough Poetry, and Plant-Human Quarterly. She holds a Ph.D. in English from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill and is an adjunct professor at University of Maryland Global Campus. Find her online at