Gone Lawn
a journal of literature
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Gone Lawn 13
Winter, 2013

Featured Novel Excerpt
New Works

Travis Vick

Water Casket


A misplaced hope to know how being born correlates to my body being submerged in water: negating the obvious choice of the plunge— leaning more, tonight, toward walking slowly from the bank.

Toward a cold that swallows my toes.

My ankles & calves.

The rhythm of the water rising to my knees as I lose it all: quickly finding myself drunk & 25, leaning back in the bathtub, singing, my lips can tell a lie but my heart would know.


Texas is home—our home—to one natural lake.

Lake Caddo.

This is where we are, the land of 'We Dig our own Holes to Drown in.' This is where we are:


In the passenger seat next to Brother Holt: a Southern Baptist preacher, who deletes his internet search-history twice daily, who drinks sweet tea on Sunday evenings with the lingering church congregation, and delivered just a month ago a passionate sermon on Leviticus, and said more times than he can remember, "God sees everything, brother, God knows it all."

Here we are: riding to Timmy Burnett's house, on the west edge of Lake Caddo, to tell him he has to let his son come home.


And if being born is not the plunge, but just the beginning of a slow submergence: we can go ahead and imagine that death must be our heads beneath water, that in the end we'll see nothing but the darkness of deep water.

We can think that as we wake at midnight to the blackness of our bedrooms, we should be hesitant to breathe in.


Timmy's fifteen year old son who he found four nights ago on a beach of Lake Caddo—with his pants off & stretched across the sand— being blown by an older man.

His son, who he beat with the butt of his rifle, and chased into the woods, and shouted at, once losing sight of him, never to come home again.


Now Brother Holt gives his best, or the best that he, as himself, can give.

'Let the boy come home,' he says, hands in his pockets; his head down. We're here too, in Timmy Burnett's home, and like Timmy, we have nothing to say. Brother Holt lingers in it. Brother Holt tries to break it, 'There's ways to reform these things.' But the quiet keeps.

So much that we have to take it with us. It's here in the pickup now, riding back to town.


Tonight, Timmy's son uses shreds of his t-shirt to tie ten-pound rocks to his ankles. He climbs onto the limb of an oak tree that leans over a deep cove of Lake Caddo, and then, closing his eyes, jumps in.

He lands in the water horizontally: allowing the length of his body to be swallowed, simultaneously.


The quiet that we took with us: the air took too. And Timmy's son, half-naked in the woods & sobbing for a moment inaudibly, brought it into his lungs.

And the water too: as the quiet flew from Timmy's open window and then fell, in a long spiral, like a shot bird, onto the lake.

So that as Lake Caddo began to flood past the drowning boy's throat, and mixed with the air left in his lungs—it made itself at home, twice over.


And I'm at home—lying in the bath I drew—imagining my life, then death, by water.

Because I've been afforded the luxury.           I just rise from the water.

Because I know nothing about it.                     I just dry myself off.


The sky's so blue we call it clear. We look, but never find his body.

At the wake, Timmy stands wide-eyed & silent at the back of the church.

Then, at the cemetery, we're here again: grabbing what we can of the quiet that's still moving—as air, as fragments of water, caught in air, endlessly married—from body to body.

And, in an empty casket, we bury it. And, too late, it means nothing anymore: the sob.

Travis Vick studied poetry beneath B.H. Fairchild and Bruce Bond. He lives in Paris, TX; where he currently works in a diaper factory, volunteers as an English tutor to children, and reminds himself to read more than he writes.