Lake Incident 

Fred Johnston

They continued down the quayside
And I was drowning (the story’s weightier that way)
Lapped into the breathing tide of Lake Ontario
And from my scant inches of water I could see them
Moving away and away in a not-far distance
And I shouted and they turned and ran back to me.

Not drowning, not drowned, I was hauled up
In their fright to dry gravel, and they blamed each
Other for what might have been, love as wrath –
I remember boat engines on the greeny lake, their
Cranky burr, their impertinence. The sounds small
Waves make over small stones, water in my shoes.

The Huron call it Lake of Shining Waters –
My wretched baptism fell into myth, assumed the
Nature of unhappening. It hung in the branches
Of mind like snow or stars, brief as fog. Child-feet
Impressed upon the bruised skin of such immensity:
A child’s shout as ferocious as god-breath, as storms.

Fred Johnston is a novelist, playwright and poet. Born in Belfast, Northern Ireland in 1951, for some years he was a journalist and book reviewer. In the mid-seventies he was a founder of The Irish Writers' Co-operative: in 2002 he was writer in residence to the Princess Grace Irish Library at Monaco. He is the founder of Galway city's annual literary festival, CUIRT, in 1986. His most recent collection of poems is 'Rogue States,' (Salmon Poetry 2019.).