The Lighthouse in the Lakehttps://i0.wp.com/barrenmagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/Woman-walking-on-beach-3.jpg?fit=1920%2C1440&ssl=119201440Nora PaceNora Pacehttps://i2.wp.com/barrenmagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/Pace-headshot-e1559319774821.jpg?fit=96%2C96&ssl=1
There is a lighthouse underwater in Lake Pontchartrain, and if you just submerge your head you can see the gleam, misty green and hazy, of its light. It does beckon, but does not welcome; it warns.
My mother told me, and her mother told her, that when my great-grandmother was young, was sprightly and youthful in 1906, she was the one to find it. She was her school’s champion diver and she was photographed, divine in a striped bathing costume, having clambered out to the lakeside. She was grinning. A whole world down there, she said. A mermaid paradise.
So in the fall when we were young, were loving and adventurous in 1999, we swam down once, you and I. Do you remember? I wanted you to hold my hand on the beach and you were shaking your head. A whole world of hurt, you said. People judging. But we could be partners underwater, you and I, in the lighthouse in the lake.
We waded in, immersed ourselves in water that felt heavy and stagnant one indigo moment, then rushing with motion as though we were being chased through an aqueduct by a flood.
We flippered resolutely down, down, until that loch ness beacon was visible, and its light permeated the fogged water like smoke. Kelp waved in a miasmic shimmer, and before our eyes everything turned Oz-emerald. The water felt velvet. The water sounded melodic in our ears, as if the lighthouse was singing to us. The water rushed.
The lighthouse was there, resplendent. How it shone.
But we stared too long, so long that the mesmer took hold, and we didn’t know which way was up.
The lighthouse seemed to drip like a stalactite from a dark ceiling: wasn’t its rocky base a sandbar just off-shore? The kelp were streamers, the light a plumbline showing downward courses into Hades. No fish ventured here, no crabs scuttled. Eerie silence reigned, and a small but insistent pinprick began to penetrate the nape of my neck.
Soon we scratched at the glittery lake floor, desperate for air, our lungs crying red, fire, love; but no surface revealed itself, and the verdigre grew nauseating, dizzy, an algae opiate. I grabbed your hand as my eyes began to close, and you closed yours too.
Then we were freed from the dream and out of its clutches we rose, our bodies streaming bubbles, the silent fish traumatized, our bodies carrying us skyward until we bobbed into the sunlit surface of what we’d thought was the core of the earth.
Nora Pace is a high school English teacher whose teaching philosophy centers student writing, social justice, and creative communities. She is a graduate of The College of William & Mary (B.A. English and History) and of Brown University (M.A.T. Secondary English). She teaches a semester-long poetry course for high school juniors and seniors in which she writes beside her students and debates whether crabs think fish are birds. Her poetry and fiction is concerned with nature, love, duality, queerness, and wonder. She lives in Providence, Rhode Island. Work is published in Borrowed Solace and forthcoming in Riggwelter Press.