”I’m grateful to you, you see. I wanted to tell you.” – Raymond Carver
Once, we fished with my father on a lake with no end—or no end our young eyes
could see. My brother cast too far backwards.
To unhook and release, sometimes you must force tiny barbs up and through while your catch sits quietly, and dares not move.
As kids, playing dead was just something we did—like possums or tricks dogs did for bits of smoked salmon; there was always a fight scene.
There was always a wake.
Sometimes, you see, it all catches up with you:
hooks and bait, silver scales that won’t be washed from your boots.
Late at night, when he was young, my brother woke us all with his splashing and quiet chatter in the bathroom
where he’d taken a whole string of grayling—their stiff, rigor-curved tails in his hands. He was giving them a bath, he said,
so they would feel a little better. Would feel like
When we hear about the destruction—tornadoes leaving little behind but rubble, sorrow
–we are shocked, then pensive:
we’ve imagined it, too, you see—sudden disaster, emergence from cellar
searching endlessly in tattered dressing gowns for signs of the family cat.
They are called “The Jumpers”,
for that’s what they did: hurled bodies from upper stories, plummeted to sidewalk.
Do we really believe we’d have done any different?
We’ve imagined that, too:
martyrdom, that is.
The symbolism of flight, ash-caked faces
pointed directly at the ground.
For who hasn’t, at least once,
envisioned a plane crash, from which one emerges as the only survivor.
Who hasn’t surmised that they too, would live through it, subsisting on broken-open packets of peanuts,
drinking, perhaps, one’s own urine, patching wounds with cocktail napkins and spit.
From day to day, I survive any number of deaths, catalog them
according to perceived glamour: terrible illness, the wrath of nature, anaphylaxis,
broken fuselage upon snow.
Where We Might Live, Had We Nowhere
At first light, when the wind is stronger than dawn, there are no bird calls. There is only the sound of a tide
that does not ebb, but only grows, carries with it fragments:
birch bark, dried alder cones, mats of black fur clipped from the dog’s tail.
There are nests in the willows held together with that fur, round little shrouds, that are now
Michele N. Harmeling is a poet and essayist residing in picturesque Palmer, Alaska. Her work has appeared in such publications as the Alaska Quarterly Review, Juked Magazine, Reed Magazine, and the Adirondack Review; she is the recipient of the 2009 Whiskey Island Poetry Prize. Her spare time is generally spent foraging for wild edibles, backpacking, fishing, reading and lavishing attention on her husband and dog, Puck. Her writing can also be found at sundaymorningpoems.wordpress.com.