When I arrive in Virginia, I sing
to the graves of my ancestors
resting in the grasses of Northside Park.
Over hedges, children race in gunnysacks
and sail in swings. The monkeys are gone,
but their castle remains. Its stone moat
protects us from the poo monkey ghosts fling,
screeching their protests sideways through time.
Later, when I stand on 8th Avenue
facing Grandma’s house,
my spirit jumps from my flesh
and spreads itself into the creaks and corners
of that old house whose arms
embrace the early days of me.
Steam pours heat into Virginia’s houses,
filling up wood pores in floors and walls
with its deep wet scent, wafting wisps of
Spirit filled with steam,
I turn toward Wake ‘em Up Bay.
Forsaken through years of dis-connect,
my aging body weeps as it enters the flow
of Lake Vermilion, rejoicing its reunion
with the waters of its womb. A desire to
float into eternity toys with my senses.
I picture heaven as a sauna in the sky
on the shores of an ethereal Vermilion
shimmering early days of me.
In heaven, Grandpa tosses cups
of the lake, dipped from a barrel,
and we watch water
dance its sizzle
on the pearly stove’s rocks.
Len laughs and his eyes mimic the glimmer
in Grandpa’s eyes, two peas in a pod,
hyucking it up in the sauna.
Dave Arnott asks if we’re sure it isn’t hell;
it’s so damn hot in here.
Grandpa chuckles and throws
more water on the rocks.
The waters of Vermillion lap my back
and pull me back to the present moment,
rocking on the surface of my youth,
imagining heaven as a sauna
where everyone I love
jokes while Grandpa throws water on the rocks.
It holds my childhood’s blood,
this receptacle of story and time.
I pull myself out onto the ladder of the boat
and up into the rest of my life.
Vermilion drips down my skin ‘til it dries.
Brenda Warren 2012
I wrote this piece for a Trifecta challenge. We were prompted to write 333-3333 words on any theme, in any style. Not counting its title, this piece is precisely 333 words long.
A week from today, I will be on a houseboat on Lake Vermilion with my husband, Len. We will have the boat for four nights. It’s been over 30 years since I’ve been swimming in Lake Vermilion. We’ll visit Virginia before we head to the lake. I have not been there for 17 years. This poem is my imagining of my upcoming trip with my husband. Lucky we!
We are going to a folk music festival close to the Mississippi River following our week on the water. Life is good. Yup.
Notes on heaven: David Arnott is a good friend who has passed already. Len is still living, but I can’t imagine that it would really be heaven if he were not there with me.