The Deaths of the Great Lakes by Jeffrey Hermann

The Death of Lake Michigan

First we took one last, long swim. Someone fished and yelled when he pulled up a walleye. I was given the honor of turning up the sun. God, the heat! By shading our eyes we could see it all turn to vapor. We were packing up towels and folding chairs when the fisherman approached me.

“Take this fish,” he told me.

“Take this fish,” he begged.

“Take it.”

 

The Death of Lake Erie 

We led a giant to the edge of the lake. The ground shook with his walloping stomps. His giant daughter walked beside him, holding his big hand. Using a sewer pipe like a straw, he sucked and drank until it was dry. The lakebed was like an endless barren planet. The giant’s daughter was the only one who cried. And this you won’t believe: A woman found the necklace she’d lost as a child, there in the stinking mud. When the giant told the story to his girl, she opened her mouth in awe.

 

The Death of Lake Ontario 

We kicked it full of sand and lawn clippings, boxes, clothes, bricks—anything we could drag over there. On top of that we built a beautiful pretend lake. It was made of tinted glass. Children were allowed to draw fish and beavers and boats on the panes. One made a mistake and drew a giraffe. Some people complained, saying it was unrealistic. I liked it. I liked how it seemed happy down there, not realizing it needed air. I liked that it was smiling.

 

The Death of Lake Superior

It hung itself.

 

The Death of Lake Huron

Some men came offering to buy it, but they only wanted the liquid, nothing living or dead in there. We filtered everything out the best we could. After the men hauled it all away we found the souls of everyone who had ever drowned. They wanted to go back to their old lives now—school children, wives, hotel managers, etc. We said it can’t work like that. They sank back into the sand and rocks, their apparitions like a thick, gray muck. That was surprising. All this time we’d dreamed them a watery blue.

 

Jeffrey Hermann’s poetry and prose has appeared in Rejection Letters, Lost Balloon, UCity Review, trampset, and JMWW, among other publications. Though less publicized, he finds his work as a father and husband to be rewarding beyond measure.

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