Payette Lake by Natalie Eleanor Patterson

Payette Lake

Invasive species in the water I stayed out of, head cold,
bleeding in the usual ways, watching a wasp drown in the shallows,
cold, wet children on the shore, tuna salad, blue tent in the sun,
tissues piled in the corner, dry horizon, another state I’ve never been to
without you, naming the pines each by each, ponderosa, lodgepole
on fire, Douglas fir, needles in bright clusters or in the shape
of flowers, no moon hanging whitely in the summer sky, no right
to your beauty, I’m trying to remember, trying, four-door hatchback,
my red witness, a crush of symptoms like a murder of crows, food
we bought but never ate, your anger so graceful I could hardly see it move,
groves of aspen pale against the dark, the only way out
is up, beyond the water line, I think you would have killed me someday,
sweaty forehead to sweaty forehead, loving hand on loving neck,
just for someone to float alongside you, however briefly—


Natalie Eleanor Patterson is a half-Cuban femme lesbian poet and editor from suburban Georgia with a BA in English and Creative Writing from Salem College. She is the author of the chapbook Plainhollow (dancing girl press, 2022) and the editor of Dream of the River (Jacar Press, 2021), and has work featured in Sinister Wisdom, Hunger Mountain, Yes Poetry, Rogue Agent, and more. She has received the 2018 and 2021 Katherine B. Rondthaler Award in Poetry from Salem College, a Best of the Net 2018-2019 nomination, and a 2020 Pushcart Prize nomination. She is the assistant editor of Jacar Press, a reader for One, and a consulting editor with Sable Books. She is an MFA candidate in poetry at Oregon State University. Find her on Twitter @natalieepatt or visit her website,

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