Low in the ghostly zone behind the dam

beneath the bleached cliff and black water line

left by the river’s sudden abeyance

I wait as a wetter season arrives,

the thaw’s flow. The cracked floor absorbs

faster than the rain falls, shines the seams

but does not heal. High above tall houses sit

on the former shore. I am not alone.

The curious and researchers scavenge

the small structures, invasive and native,

that suffocated wildly, slowly, here

while power company customers

marveled at the mystery and the scale.


Park Rangers on two week assignments

with per diem field their theories, where the pressure

relieved, how a river could all at once retreat.

Other manmade lakes have disappeared, say

the experts calmly, say internet entries,

rare, yes, but explicable, and now locals

speak with authority on aquifers and sediment.


My functionary’s possessiveness

lured me here, like to a past regime’s auction.

Before it was submerged this rural land

had to be cleared— that was my office.

Evictions, expirations, foreclosures,

by legal means the place was carried off.

I remember the map grid colors shift

red to blue, like with any project,

the deadlines met in fretful succession.

Accomplishing the place, I used to walk

the dirt path behind the school’s woods

where the tired river was kept and tell it

how it would sweep away the school, the woods

the foul line’s white lye from the baseball field,

up a last run of the sledding hill, put

a hand on each of the pillaring hills.

An interrogator offering the world

to a captive with yet no plans to turn.


I had not thought that care was taken

to excavate the concrete foundations

and expected the grid of the old town

to lay itself out to my memory

but it is gone. Below the arisen lake

currents of sifting sands, like drifted snow,

plied under the remains of the houses.

I must stand still feet above the streets.


Expected, too, descendents of the civic clubs

who fought us to hold some sort of event,

bragging on our failure, lamenting the waste,

naming those founders I had to hear

so much about. But if anyone beside me

remembers the place, the red-fronted armory,

deploring voices, they are silent now

and perhaps as perplexed as I am, turned

trying to triangulate the past by hill shape.


But now real rain, tiny meniscus bursts

as puddle joins with puddle, making pool.

The path winding down from a parking lot

turns back to bottom mud fastest of all.

The Ranger post and its generator

will be left behind, a useless landmark

to those being told to walk quickly, now

in the suddenly stormed over sundown.

As I step over a hasty escarpment,

that ancient river, your silver push,

the tall houses, their brown lawns, are dim

but soon, electricity and flowers.


Whatever weakness briefly gave, it holds

now where at the foot of the dam a rising bank

highlights and enfolds the grades, and rolls

at me, like a man made a promise. Take it

now like a shallow bay returning, recover

the floor, the height of the cliff wall, hurry

above my head, by river and rain, come

like the tide. Make me run for my life.


by Keith Seher


Keith Seher works out of the Cleveland area, and has been writing since he was 13. I belongs to a number of poetry groups, including the Butchershop, and private workshop which has been meeting for more than 45 years. 

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