daniel gallick's poetry and fiction have appeared in previous
editions of deep cleveland junkmail oracle. he, along with mike
blowers & steve brightman, hosts expresso expressions, a
live poetry extravaganza held each month at the bainbridge, ohio,
Among the rocks on shore
Lake Erie, like most men, is dismal this time of year. I have
grown to like to go to its shore and watch the slow, dull waves.
Ice up will soon occur like death's quiet routine. January, just
after Christmas, slow and freezing movement sets in here in vapid
downtown Cleveland. I catch the Rapid, shiver as I get on the
train in Shaker, try not to think as my Sony tape player blasts
some jaded love song that was manufactured by the great profit
makers in today's music biz, and read the news as we motor among
the buildings into downtown.
Love has not found its way to me. I wait, but within I feel
that it is not meant for me. I listen to the songs. I watch the
tube and read all the novels about love, but I have had not one
short term affair with a man to sweep me into the next year let
alone "eternity"?. I have thought many times, "There
he is," but 'he' has not answered any of my prayers. Emptiness
resides within me. One time I built up my vapid courage and I,
at the spurt ofthe moment, went up to a fellow and started a
conversation, then proceeded to have even more courage to ask
him out, but nothing occurred other than that blank look. I never
saw him on the Rapid again.
Came to God, go to church every Sunday, and am in the church
choir, yet no man seems to be looking for me. I pray God will
bring me love, but He does not. As January deepens I see its
beauty, but I feel the love that winter drags from me as it longs
to store that love within the frozen ground and under the ice
of the shallow, large lake in front of the city and me.
I feel nothing in my life has been working out well. The purity
I felt when I was a child has long been dismissed. Days when
I was young, I stood shakily holding onto my mother's legs in
the kitchen. I watched open-mouthed the incessant movement of
her hands on the counters under the cupboards, at the stove,
and in the dirty wash water of the sink. Those were the days
during winter when she brought the soup to a rolling boil, when
the bubbles turned over in a rhythm the softening stalks of celery,
peppercorns, pudgy carrots, and skinless pieces of chicken. I
would smile at her. On the morning of the first deep snow, that
I knew would stay until March, she poured cold water into the
broth and the steam it produced condensed on our kitchen's windows
and even moistened my Grandma's doilies in the living room. The
caress was light, but lasting. The aroma of that chicken soup
roamed through the entire house and always awoke Dad with a gladdening
smile on his face. He worked third shift at Goodyear and was
just crawling out of bed at noon. He would approach my mother
and touch her soft right arm and give her a tender kiss.
Mother allowed me to taste the broth. Then, we all went back
to just listening to soup. The beat of the cover on the pot tattled
on something private. I was not made knowledgeable of any tragic
stories by mother or father of their lives as children with their
strong parents, and the love that was between them. I was in
love with my childish irresponsibility and knew joy for what
When I was ten, my mother, thirty three years of age, was
the victim of an auto accident as she walked to the store. An
older man ran a traffic light and mother was found against a
giant oak. She was pronounced dead on arrival at the hospital.
The whole year afterwards was a blur I do not care to remember.
I have never shared my feelings with anyone about these things,
even with the beards of the men at county mental health where
I was sent by my loving father until I was thirteen.
The single man next door loved to ice fish. Early February
and March he went up to the lake and fished for perch. He seemed
to always come home with plenty of fresh fish. He always came
over and shared them with us. A lulling darkness came to me one
night when I was called to come over and get some perch for my
dad and I.
Daily I still relive the approach of his cold hands as they
touched the simple, soft folds of my skin under my navy blue
wear-to-school wool skirt. I never understood why his touch left
me vacant. Later that night in my bed my delicate body moved
slowly, yet uncontrollably under the covers in my white walled
bedroom. Like a watch my body wound tight and everything in the
outer world seemed to click faster. In the nightmares that followed
the holes that the ice fisherman dug on Lake Erie wandered in
front of my eyes. The chips of ice touched roughly my lips. The
pock marks on the fisherman's face discreetly confused themselves
with the icy holes on the lake. All the holes continue to this
day dividing themselves and multiplying in a constant loop within
my psyche like the atoms inside conscious sin. I know now that
I had met with more knowledge than I had symmetry. It seems that
not much pretty and perfect exists in the cold months after Christmas.
Years passed. Father did the best he could. School went well.
I received fine grades and showed them to my father and he smiled,
but did not hug me. He had grown to be afraid of love.
My friends loved me. I made many friends, and even had some
boys who thought I was acceptable. Still, love with my friends
never became true and lasting in school. We had fun and that
was it. As soon as I would start letting my self go with them,
they would proverbially run and hide with others. Then I would
make other friends. I soon realized that I would always have
many friends, but I would never have a close friend.
After a few years of trying, those psychologists at the mental
health board stopped trying to get into me. I felt satisfied
about that. My father never really knew any of my disturbing
thoughts. I always felt it was tough enough for him to adjust
to mother's death. I was not going to burden him with something
he could not fix with me. Years later he quietly passed on.
College went well. I became a C.P.A. and found a job with
aan expanding law firm in the downtown area. I saved money for
them and I saved money for me, taking the Rapid in each day.
I didn't need a car. I shopped and bought clothes that would
last and that saved me a few dollars. My apartment was laid out
correctly and efficiently with a minimum of furniture that was,
of course, used and inexpensive. I left what I had in my will
to my faraway, second cousins.
I got involved with the Cleveland Indians during the summer,
bought a cap, and would go to five or six of their games and
watch them win and lose. As years passed I noticed few and fewer
of the men there would even look at me. I knew I was average
and getting less attractive as each year passed. My breasts sagged,
the few pounds I added to my figure attached to my hips and belly,
and the wrinkles in my face became deeper as my moods became
more sullen. I went less to the hair dressers on the weekend.
I bought less makeup and went to less clothing sales after the
holidays. Time passed and the Indians started to lose more and
more. They had their chances to win the World Series, but blew
it each time.
Decisions about my life, I started to realize, were not mine.
Others decided when I was to get a raise, others decided when
my apartment needed painting, and others had decided that I was
not to have true love during my longer and longer pointless days.
I began to pray more, and still nothing
came. God had a plan for me but his plan I felt was not to be
fruitful with a man and have a family.
I asked and asked, and kept hearing deep in my soul that taking
my life was within God's plan. I kept getting the feeling that
it should be an active way to end life and not the usual taking
pills way that I often had read about. My dad would then feel
some pride even in his grave.
I let whatever was to happen occur. I waited for my day,prayed
that God would guide me, and felt comfortable about his decisions.
I knew what the Bible and my church would say about this, but
I felt I was just another parishioner that did things a little
bit different than what the church advised. Anyway, I felt God
knew what he was doing with Jesus and that was similar to a suicide
with his powerful and magical son upon the wooden cross.
When I had first gone to work I had worried about but loved
numbers, but not anymore, especially in my private life. The
night I ended my life was in late January. I don't remember the
date. I took the Rapid downtown and wandered over to the lake
by East 9th Street. I felt plenty of energy. I felt I could walk
the shore all the way to Buffalo. As I got past Burke Lake Front
Airport and into Gordon Park I noticed a small boat that the
life guards had left out on the beach. Everything was coming
together for me. Oars were left under the skiff. I found myself
flipping the boat over, pushing it out across the sand into the
lake and methodically finding my way into it and rowing out.
I did not feel the cold as I rowed out toward the break wall
three hundred yards away. The lake seemed to be jelling in the
cold like it was getting ready to ice up. It was rolling slowly
in silvery dark tones. I knew they might never find me, even
in the spring.
I unhanded the oars. They hung to the boat and shifted slowly
with the slowing night air. They almost looked hanged as they
remained in motion, swaying back and forth so slowly that I hardly
noticed them. I faced the stern. The transom leveled almost motionless
up and down. I used the break wall as my bench mark. The yellowing
moon during this night began to gaze back at me and as the boat
wafted and turned slowly it glazed my back. Every once in a while
I felt a shiver from the frozen Canadian shore fifty miles off.
Still, I felt a peace I had not felt since I was small. I remembered
my loving mother and my father. Dad had died quietly the year
Tonight, the eerie cry of the few gulls still wandering the
waters seemed far off and not part of the scene. I looked back
over the city and saw its synthetic glow and felt it looked like
some kind of huge, quiet halo. All seemed true and correct with
my meanings and my knowledge. Father's strong body appeared silhouetting
the edge of a moonlit cloud. There was no emotion expressed.
His strength seemed to be fine. Mother caressed me underneath
the bottom of the boat. She seemed as busy as ever and full of
good, methodic motion helping those around her. Love seemed all
around me; good love, the love I had begged for and never had
gotten. That love seemed ready to grasp me in a more gentle way
than the usual love that sometimes happens on this, our temporary
earth. I had no tears tonight. Years ago fear had dried up and
stayed away from me.
I undressed to meet my only lover. I pulled the plug in the
transom of the skiff so that it would not float roughly in the
morning light among the rocks on shore.
Many of my thoughts made me smile. The warmth of my cheeks
brought a brightness to all my watery turnings. I found myself
falling over in a hilarious fit, weightless in the tumbling,
truly happily with my flaring eyes as my unconscious body went
down and down, landing softly on the mucky bottom of this smallest
of the Great Lakes. My feet mingled their funny toes in a tickle
with my wet mother. I laughed in bubbles and caressed her like
I had done when I was a small child. She got busy getting me