Michael McLane from Warm Springs

what you are in water

vector, macerated

sweet shadow

of former


a single boy, a float

a word from the German fleet

implies motion

not dull osmosis

you will never be fleet of foot

but what absorbs

sustains, holds you upright

like the cane, the tapping

that precedes you


no one dreams of this place anymore

the city employee tells me

as we toe the ledge

of the largest pool, now empty

the bottom strewn

with abandoned office chairs,

business cards and dead birds.

I don’t believe this is true,

though it feels catatonic, its needs

diverted or denied—


I say—

That isn’t funny

he says,

but his mouth, his body

betray him


and who would want you

striking as you are—

in this perpendicular place

where you can stand on any road

and see exact surveyed salvation

in either direction—

shrunken limb, occasional teetering

soothed on the fault lines, no

fault of your own

in geology, transgress means nothing more

than to envelop, to spread through water,

fumaroles on sea floor making new ground.


July 26th, 1847,

the day Thomas Bullock and others

discover the springs, he notes

it was very warm

and smelt very bad

but their shovels made a terrace

of hell, a place for bodies


the bathers changing

in the cattails, before

the bathhouse is built

soft sweep

across skin so deafening

they had to separate

the week, days for men,

for women and children


we try to tear

ourselves from failing bodies

but what gift stasis,

closed doors


let’s call it what it is

a name strangely heroic,

firm, though it is nothing

more than a tithe

one limb left behind—

the other exasperated

with its needs.


excuses are easy to come by—

the leg, yes, of course

but you were slow

in your Cold War masculinity

left at home when the men went

fishing, hunting—

rocks were dangerous

and current swift,

on and on,

we must be careful

of company we keep,

but who knew more

of swimming than you


the pool is myth,

mothers line the shallow

end of quarantine

a flock of infants float


Hellenic young

in their wicker-armed

baskets, the screams

rattle, waver in the fog—

more than anything

you want them to struggle,

to flail, to cast off

what nestles,

black magic activated

by water

and soothed by it


my grandmother, who works

in a doctor’s office, who knows

the descent, the turning in on one’s self,

lullaby of the iron lung,

pleads silently for you

to scream, the way forward

diffuse as evaporation, slippery

as condensation on the building’s

buttress windows


before the buildings

and the brethren

were the winters,

warm water

Shoshone and Ute

strung along

the frothing range,

mountain’s own body heat

luring game with thermal light


we are always at the mercy

of the invisible

what hides in waves,

a trace of so-called saints

red blotch of skin

so much like burns

what can scrub us

so effortlessly away


it did take time—

for weeks measles ran

over the foothills,

creating their own tectonics

to match impatient earth

one nearby settler wrote

they would rush past our cabin

howling and screaming – run

and jump into the warm springs

then take cold and die…at all times

of day or night their howls or mournings

rent the air


true believers were baptized

twice—once at home

in London or Stockholm, or Missouri,

before the endless accumulation of miles,

and again at the foot of the Wasatch—

called it taking the waters

the price of admission

the slow burn of home in the eyes

on the skin, commitment embodied

in the world endlessly

pouring forth


water-borne, confused

tribute or omen, water babies

that haunted springs, that colluded

with the Mormons, ensured

no return, water babies dipped in Zion

upon their arrival, and hurried

back to town,

we are legion, water babies

with shrinking legs and failing nervous

systems, swaddled in the bathhouse,

mothers doing penance

chest-deep in fault

springs eternal


the windows above the therapy pools

are blacked out—

from the staircase, I can barely

make out their depth, the drop

into obsolescence—and it is here

in bureaucratic black

that I remember the last time I saw you,

two years before you died,

we were in your hot tub overlooking

the Russian River, the jets humming endlessly

as we drank late into the evening

watching kids pass slow

on inner tubes.

It seemed nothing at the time,

fragile selves, taking what little

they can, what had been kept at bay

for decades in yours, lulled

one more night by the heat

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