There’s a heart buried
at the bottom of a lake.
It’s your heart, or one of them.
You have to hold your breath
and dive down
to find it, pulling fistfuls of mud
away each time before you rise again
to the surface to breathe. You must
do it by hand so you don’t injure
the heart and stop
its beating. Oh yes, it’s beating, the way sharks
are breathing in the ocean, always
in movement. Tangles of weeds
brush your legs like snakes
as you go down, blind
and holding back fear
in the depths over and over again;
or snakes pretend to be weeds
just to get close to you.
When you finally
touch it, the beautiful red
muscle in your hand, bring it up
through the clear water
that cleans and shines it,
you cannot help but hold it out
to those waiting on shore
saying Look, look at what I found.
You Might Go Down to the Water
You do not believe
it, love, but you are
as necessary as flight.
No cardinal in his red suit
is more than you, no
monarch caterpillar at the leaves
of a milkweed
more possible. You, love,
are both possible and right,
like campfire smoke saturating
clothes and hair, like thunder traveling
so far through the humid air just
to be heard. Yes, in your shame
and sorrow you might go down
to the water and beg
it to take you away at last. Just
remember: even the knives
you carry in your head
are holy, even when they cut down
the mystery you almost
imagine and prod the boggy peat
under which any love you ever had for yourself
pretends to be dead. Why
does everything have to be
so sharp? Try to remember.
The blades are you, and they shine
in the light. Every moment,
every particle of every
thing in the whole damned universe
Katherine Riegel is the author of Letters to Colin Firth, What the Mouth Was Made For, and Castaway. Her poems and essays have appeared or are forthcoming in Brevity, The Offing, Orion, Tin House, and elsewhere. She is co-founder and poetry editor for Sweet: A Literary Confection.