The Ghost of Gananoque Lake

Months before my birth, the tightened muscle in Pop-Pop's chest

Refused to throb after over sixty years of pounding.

I never heard his voice, but his face resides in grainy photographs,

Eyes shaded by dark lenses, lips pursed in exertion.

At the age of twelve, in a tiny cabin hidden in a cove on the Gananoque Lake,

There was a fireplace made of stone, and opposite there was

A weathered cellar door holding creeping, earthy things

Of the dark, and I was told never to raise the rusted metal latch and

Venture into its depths.

One night, we were awakened by plaintive wailing

Of sable loons on the glassy black water and the clicking croaks of frogs

Tucked away in the boggy docks. In the deep darkness,

A ghostly form, a presence solidified and sidled from behind

The battered door and opened the cabinet concealing gin and cigars,

Leaving a potent odor of alcohol and smoke behind.

As I explored the upper floors of the house, I discovered in a narrow closet

A scratchy, woolen anorak and galoshes still tainted with

The smell of sweat and aftershave mingled with cedar and mothballs.

In a broken dresser drawer, there was a sheaf of yellowed ledger paper

With a scrawl similar to mine wriggling across the page.

Trembling fingers brushed tiny rivulets made by penstrokes

On paper. I can feel the heavy weight of a rough hand

That patiently unsnarled fishing line, sawed holes in the icy

Surface of the lake, and gripped the rubbery mouths of gleaming fish.

Those same hands had scribbled these words:

"If sky black and rain on lake,

Stay in and drink a beer…"

One day I may disappear under the Earth as he has,

Into the dark cellar to feel the chilled water trickle over

My fingers and to bury myself like a clam in the damp, coarse soil,

To linger where loons shriek and pike and panfish flick their faces

Above the dusky water as the sun clutches the rim of the Gananoque.

Becky Boyle