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Island, 1949

ISSUE:  Spring 1987

Walking the crude rock
  dam above the
rapids. Why are you
  doing it?—
you might fall,


arms useless
  as wings.
You can’t turn back,
  others are
watching. And
  such slow

water above the dam
  like thin slee-
ping mud.
  That summer smell.
Sun-bleached rock,
  duckweed in
clots. Dead bull-
clams. Waste
  from outhouses up-
stream and you’ve been
  warned but

you can’t turn back
  and when you step
on the island it’s
  nothing of course—
a single scrub willow,
  roots exposed,

dying. And that stink.
  And broken glass.
And your eyes seared
  from sun.
And across the rapids
  your five-year-old brother

wading staring
  and the others calling
  of all you’ve dared
and how small the island

the other bank so far away,
  looking new, altered,
like a dream you can’t
And you knew going back
  was more than
you could do.
You knew.


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