Jack Grapes: "Lake Pontchartrain Seawall" & "Lost Lake"

Jack Grapes is an award-winning poet, playwright, actor, teacher, and the editor and publisher of ONTHEBUS, one of the top literary journals in the country.


Not too many stones here
on the cement wall by the lake,
nor on the cement steps
that descend into the black water,
six deep at high tide, two deep at low.
We used to put a stone on the steps
for every girl we necked with
in the back seat of our ‘56 Chevies
parked a few feet from the shoreline wall.
One summer, there must have been
a hundred stones along the concrete top.
The hurricanes would come in late August,
early September.
By fall, there was not one stone left;
all had been carried off into the lake.
Just seawall and concrete,
far as the eye could see, from Lakeview
to the Pontchartrain Causeway.
Sometimes, in January or February,
a stone would appear here, another over there.
But they didn’t last long.
High winter waves from Gulf storms
would wash them back into the lake.
One summer, Peter Bordelon decided
that if you broke up with a girl,
you’d walk down to the seawall,
pick up a stone, and skip it onto the waters
of the lake, the dark placid waters
that greedily swallowed
that offering to the god of teenage love,
so you’d always remember
that it was you who reached down
and threw the stone away,
not the fickle red-head
buttoning her blouse in the front seat
of your car, anxious to get home
to her bucket of stones.


What happens when you try
believing in God is things begin
to fall apart.
Like when we were lost
trying to find Lost Lake
high in the high
Sierras, leaning against
a large boulder unable
to go on, munching
gorp from our army pack
and ready to fall
in the snow and call it
quits. I remember that
to this day. Calling it
quits, I mean. My old
football coach Mr. Palone
would have killed me
if he’d known I was ready
to call it quits,
and the irony, Lost Lake
was only 30 yards away,
over the next rise.
Gleaming and teaming
with fish.
That’s what happens when
you climb miles
with a fifty pound backback
in the high Sierras,
and the beauty of nature
makes you believe in God
and then things begin to fall apart.
I suppose it’s somewhat like love.
You believe in love and then
things begin to fall apart.
Better not to believe in it,
but what happens when it comes
to you, brown-eyed and wishing
only the best for you.
Can love be returned even
when you don’t believe in it?
A part of me is still leaning
against that boulder,
next to my best friend Allan,
who in his own way,
had given up too,
and I’ve never known Allan
to ever give up.
But we both had had it.
So we leaned against that stone
and ate our gorp, biding our time,
assuming that what is lost
is never lost forever,
and like love, comes looking for you
when you least expect it,
even when you’ve stopped
believing in it.

What are you looking for?