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The Shore

ISSUE:  Spring 1985
Knee-deep in muck,
I lurched across marshland
to a saw-grass hummock out from where I cast
a lung-smashed bullfrog,

sinking, now, into the treachery
of memory at line’s end.
If you want to, tell your own uncertain stories,
but that day I dragged a snapper to shore

waiting since then for this,
forced my ax- and charcoal-sharpened spear
into its mouth. . . . No, its own head
plunged/plunges out from neckfolds

as far as it has to
to take the point
I wanted to drive into it deep enough
to reach its heart. . . .

How I kept from losing it,
kept it from backing into the black water,
how from my boy’s strength I hoisted it
to plant this spear

so that its own weight
would bear it down
all the way to here,
doesn’t matter. A week later,

after 30 years, I returned,
and the snapper still struggled
to ascend the spear in air
that now gives purchase. Blood

seeped into this ground.
Already, I can’t remember whether then
I pushed the spear over, watched the snapper
back away to darkness and disappear,

or if I knifed its brain, or just
left it there, as I leave it now, wherever.
It’s too late to matter
in any way but this,

the snapper writhing downward
as I become a man,
the gradual clearing and release,
the shore.


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