by Gretchen VanWormer

Image: Marguerite Perret, Lady of the Lake (2015), clear plastic figure filled with lake debris, LED panel, and inflated inner tube. Viewed as part of Washed Up (2019, Jan. 8 – March 9) at the Oklahoma State University Museum of Art. Photo: OSU Museum of Art.

You wore a rubbery sunburn all June, skin peeling in long strips you dropped in the waters of Lake Champlain beside schools of long-dead minnows. Beneath, your skin pearled like plastic. Hair bobbed like a lure. Teens littered the beaches that summer, smelling of stale car fresheners: royal pine, wild cherry. Sam from physics class floated you a line: “You know, every time I look at you, my balls itch.” What fresh pollution is this? you thought, and swam out farther, kept peeling until skin was more like memory: a wide net. Then, your body was the lake. Charred fabric drifted over your right lung, as if one month of smoking Virginia Slims with your friend Jackie was coming for your life. Rings from an old six pack lodged in your back—remnants of a stolen beer with Kyler after you watched The Crow, that movie where the actor was supposed to pretend-die but was for-real shot, killed. It was getting harder to tell organic from inorganic, the stone in your leg from the pebbled foam in your chest. Was your crush on your sister’s ex-boyfriend imitation? Was your crush on that girl from field hockey biological? Years ago, when they dug the foundations of your high school, they found fossilized seahorses, a hidden ocean. At home, a red shoe burned behind your sternum. Your thighs glowed in electric light. A golf ball rolled along your bed like an ovary.