Devil’s Lake

Spring 2010 Issue

Karin Gottshall: Mending

It took me a hundred years

just to learn to thread a needle,

and by that time all my generation

had gone, their clothes buried with them

or passed down to abler hands.

Then I set to counting buttons—so many

jars full—the navy anchors, tiny

mother-of-pearl discs no bigger

than a first tooth. I loved

to find odd things among them: antique

pen nibs, Indian arrowheads, someone’s

Purple Heart. My entire life the geese

were migrating—always coming

or going—sometimes the whole sky

was stitched together with their long vees.

Sometimes, too, a fighter jet passed over

with a sound like torn cotton. The house

would shake—or maybe that was just me,

growing older. All the while I was thirsty,

and so tired—I’d finally sewed

the bedclothes closed. I wondered

when my grandmother would return

from the garden with her smell of laundry

and lemon balm, her cool steady hands.

Mud Nymph

This pond’s spirit has been deep

on its fine-silt floor for lifetimes, sifting muck

through bird bones while the surface

stagnates green, embossed like an oxidized coin

with duckweed. She exists to finger what sinks:

spools of wire, bottles, rings, love charms

and offerings, and the kind of dolls

girls don’t mind losing—deep scratches

on their plastic faces. Such water hardly holds

the name: feathered with algal bloom, dense

with soil acids and cast-off snail coils,

tadpoles in every stage of squirm and unfurl.

Her eyes have skinned over and gill-slits

pulse like knife-gouges at her neck.

She smells of wet metal and decay, and gray

fish kiss her with their sucker discs

so she’s clean as pearl-sheen. Light enters

in stabs and hemorrhages. Her hands are huge,

sorting what no one goes in after: a mirrored

compact calloused with rust, a child’s shoe

and letters wrapped in twine, delivered like thick

packets of lotus leaves, waxy and veined,

when the surface is turned and troubled

by the rough weather of wind and the rain.

a photo of the author, Karin Gottshall KARIN GOTTSHALL’s first book, Crocus, was published by Fordham University Press in 2007. Recent work appears in FIELD, Harvard Review, The Gettysburg Review, and in the web journals Failbetter and Memorious. Gottshall lives in Middlebury, Vermont, and has taught creative writing at Interlochen Arts Academy and Middlebury College. More from this issue >