Earlier this week, walking out of my apartment at five o’clock in the afternoon, I could have melted into the asphalt. With temperatures over 100 degrees for days on end, it takes a lot for me to leave the house. But, I was overdo for a game of darts with some friends, so what else does one do?
Before meeting up with my friends, I ducked into one of my favorite local bookstores, Bookman Bookwoman, to kill some time. Of course, it didn’t take long before I found a book I couldn’t pass up: The Made Thing: An Anthology of Contemporary Southern Poetry.
The most memorable artist of this crew of anthologized poets is David Bottoms. Out of the seven works Mr. Bottoms has in the anthology, one is particularly remarkable: “Under the Boathouse.”
In this piece, we follow the poet in the arc of a dive that takes him under a lake in “a fog of rust,” where he becomes trapped, a hook through his left hand. Flailing like “a bait hanging up/instead of down” he’s looking toward the sky, helpless, awaiting his salvation, which comes in the form of his wife.
But, it’s not until the last line of the poem — when we finally take our first aching breath as readers — that we actually hear of the hook that has held the poet submerged.
The beauty of his poetry is the suspense, the element of the unknown that draws us under, holds us close, and refuses to let go. And, when we’re released, we wonder how we were living before the experience, before the work of art unfolded.
“Under the Boathouse” can be found here.