At Lake Merced

C. Dale Young


Some men go down to the river.
I went down, instead, to the lake, the air
silent and stretched tightly over it, 

the water unmoved and dangerously still.
Some men move past such a scene
without even the slightest notice of it.

But this morning, a man in a shell
rowed across this lake’s smoothed surface,
the tip of his shell leaving a widening V 

behind it, the shell cleanly slicing through
the water like an arrow, the way an arrow slices
through air or flesh. And just like that, the image

of the Saint pierced through by arrows becomes
fixed within my head, the arrows all leaving V’s
behind them, V for violence, as if the very air

were an impasto on canvas. And just like that,
the arrows slicing through the air become bullets,
each one leaving its V’s behind it, the paint

at the target dabbed with a red duller than crimson.
You may wonder why on earth a man shot through
centuries ago would appear to me upon seeing this

tiny shell of a boat crossing a lake, but the present day
does a remarkable job of emulating the past. Let us
leave it at that. Some men find nothing, and others

find omens everywhere. The stillness of the air above
the lake; the shell slicing through the water; the Saint
shot through with arrows yet living, breathing, his chest

heaving, his head bobbing while the arms remain
perfectly still, and the brown boy shot through
with bullets, his wounds a red duller than crimson: 

things like this still happen almost every day.