The lake was bigger than its biography:
sink or swim, the end was always a mirage.
Nowadays the message in a bottle
is the emptiness. No one is lost at sea.
Everyone is happy. I wondered if it could
ever come to this: loving the endlessness of water,
still calling it a lake. When I first learned
to dive for the open, I became disoriented—
how much freedom can one take? Or be given?
Some animals give birth in water. There is the joke
that a human can spend their entire life underwater
if they were born there. Indeed, our hometowns say stuff
about us: you are meant to live, you are meant to live
on as a cautionary tale. Los Angeles. The angels
of which valley god? Or all the saints in California
wondering who left them to the desert. It’s not like
they had a choice of residence. Some places are simply
not worth the money. Some bodies, too. They last
for a few years and leave no legacy.
Don’t be so sure that it’s a bad thing. Take note:
celebrities give out their signatures as if to say
I was here. I was here. Like graffiti
on ruins, a message to the future. You were there.
You were there with me. In the lake, in the cold water
with our eyes open. What a sight we were.

Steven Chung is a recently graduated high school student who lives in the San Francisco Bay Area. His work has been recognized by Bennington College and the Poetry Society, which named him a Foyle Young Poet of the Year. Poems of his appear or are forthcoming in the Financial Times, Passages North, Rattle, Redivider, BOAAT, and elsewhere. He was born in 1999.