The ceremony reminded me

Of a burial at sea

Except this was a lake

Not an ocean and, of course,

There was no dead body.

I can’t even recall the purpose,

But I remember watching

The canoes on the water,

Paper lanterns strung out

From bow to stern

And the campers

Looking like monks the way

They moved ritualistically

Slow with the paddles,

Singing in a voice

That sounded foreign as

It traveled across the lake.

At some point it started

Raining, and this added

To the sense of wonder

And power I felt

Watching life happen

Without understanding or

Caring why since I

Was only fifteen and still

Waiting on a broken heart.


John Abbott is a writer, musician, and English instructor who lives with his wife and daughter in Kalamazoo, Michigan. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Potomac Review, Georgetown Review, Chiron Review, Arcadia, Nova Scotia Review, Ballard Street Poetry Journal, upstreet, Birmingham Arts Journal, and many others. He recently completed his first book of poems. For more information about his writing, please visit

For years now I’ve been trying to write something based on my experiences at a camp I attended when I was young. After several failed attempts at a story, I turned to poetry. I had been writing other poems about lakes, so it seemed only natural to start with the lake the camp was named for. I wrote most of it in one sitting, but I couldn’t get the ending right until I remembered a conversation I had had with another camper who said this about being fifteen: “It’s the best age really. You’re as close to being an adult as you can get without anyone expecting anything from you.”



Copyright 2009