Back to Issue Thirty-Three

Chateau on an Island in a Lake



In late summer I drove half the day to the Cape,
came to the end of that sandy arm,
slept the night upstairs at the White Horse Inn

and dreamed it was my job to escort Lucie through a wood,
walking a sandy path snaked with roots, to a shallow lake
ringed with a beach of stones.  In the lake was an island

and on that island rose a turreted chateau
gloomy in its isolation—our destination.
A ringlet of smoke curled up from a chimney,

and lights lit the upper chambers of the house.
I searched for a bridge or a ferry to take us over
but all that remained were timbers bobbing

where a bridge once spanned.  I looked down
at Lucie’s shoes, cobbled according to her specific whims,
beautiful and witchy in their willfulness

and couldn’t bear to see them ruined, and so
I told her to climb up on my back
so I could carry her across.  “You hardly weigh a thing,”

I said, wading into the water, which was cold
as I had expected.  As my legs broke the glassy stillness
with my passenger on my back, I awoke.

Outside, the tide was coming in, green curtains
breathed out at the window of my room,
lake gone, chateau disappearing into memory,

and Lucie nowhere to be found.


Mark Wunderlich is the author of four books of poems, the most recent of which is God of Nothingness, forthcoming in 2021 from Graywolf Press. Other collections include The Earth Avails, which received the Rilke Prize, Voluntary Servitude, and The Anchorage, which received the Lambda Literary Award. He has received fellowships from the NEA, the Amy Lowell Trust, and the Civitella Rainieri Foundation, and elsewhere, and has published individual poems in The Nation, The New Republic, The New York Times Magazine, Poetry, and has been featured on NPR’s All Things Considered. He is the director of the Bennington Writing Seminars graduate writing program, and lives in New York’s Hudson Valley.


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