Calm Water, Jagged Mountains

And already
we have strayed into myth. This is heavy
on me. All this flatland and the constant tilling.

What is romantic about the hills? You tell me
it is because even water is moved by their slopes,
as natural as the way warmth escapes all things.
The way cold water sucks the heat from arctic
swimmers. The way the hardening that occurs
in most hearts has already
What I mean is, I have stopped going
to church. All this flatland given over. Given
again and again like something owned. Forgive this speech.
Forgive the trodden land, the lack of mountains.

I dig a hole
and find all this sand. They say an ancient glacier
carved out the Great Lakes, pulverized stone to sand
and left behind calm water. Sometimes I feel that way
about this lost innocence. We were whole once—jagged
mountains capped with snow—touching something
beyond mere flatland. It’s all
scarred earth.

Soon, the stubborn oaks will release
their curled leaves, the lakes will freeze, a transition
into another state of being… You tell me the hills are romantic

because we can never get to them. Look at all this flatland.
How it goes all the way to the sky, like a critique. Kiss
my red, wind-burned cheek—stop all this hardening.

Once the ice is thick enough, it does not matter how
loud the flag snaps. The bluegill
will sleep through it anyway.

Photo by Red Zeppelin.

Austin Veldman

Austin Veldman is a poet, editor, and songwriter from South Bend, Indiana. His poetry has recently appeared in Atlanta Review, Rabid Oak, Bateau, and Great Lakes Review. He is the founding editor and editor-in-chief of Twyckenham Notes, an online literary magazine that was the recipient of a 2020 Pushcart and a finalist for a Firecracker Award for Best Debut Magazine, and is home to the Joe Bolton Poetry Award. He holds an MA in English from Indiana University South Bend, where he has taught contemporary poetry. He works in management at an automotive recycling facility and lives in Northern Indiana with his wife and two sons.

Twitter: @austinveldman