Driftless Elegy (audio only)
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This was the time of year we would go into the frozen forest—
leaves stripped, only a few birds ticking in the bare trees, fields shorn,
corn trash a dull gold. Sometimes snow would fall, and I can recall
the exact sound of its muffling, quieting whiteness crackling down.
I was there at the edge of Never,
of Once Been, bearing the night’s hide
stretched across the night sky,
awake with myself disappointing myself,
My father fell from the boat.
His balance had been poor for some time.
He had gone out in the boat with his dog
hunting ducks in a marsh near Trempealeau, Wisconsin.
No one else was near
save the wiry farmer scraping the gutters in the cow barn
who was deaf in one ear from years of machines—
and he was half a mile away.
My father fell from the boat
and the water pulled up around him, filled
his waders and this drew him down.
He descended into water the color of weak coffee.
The dog went into the water too,