WINTER AND AFTER
WINTER AND AFTER
Cumberland Lake. How that name brings so much back. Lake of my youth. Depths and mirrorings pulling me in and down and up again almost transformed, or so it seemed those long evenings after a stringer full of bass and bluegill, boyhood triumph worth the hours when bites were few and the big ones too often broke free of fragile hooks or thin line. How the seasons drew and painted those acres of purl and ruffle, now a quietness now a sudden shift into heavy wave and wind’s roar. Which brings me to that winter of 1985 when cold and fury broke the records claimed by Old Roger our town’s unofficial keeper of such as weather and population and school enrollments. They warned us not to test the ice before it thickened but we were young and dumb and wiser than those wearing their gray in hair and eyes. The four of us off to walk and prance over testing field of rippled ice seeming solid to our eager, proud footsteps. Far out we went when of a sudden somebody’s prophecy came true—Jared suddenly crashing through quick as an eagle’s wing above prey. We reached and failed and no doubt screamed to emptiness of sky and help too far away. We stared each other down then Tomas ordered us to hold his legs as he went head first into that hole from hell. We did. He did it. Brought up the shape we knew as Jared, best friend of all. It took a while but life and open eyes came back to us. Then precious words to prove the real. We came as four, would head to shore the same. We would resume ourselves, or so we must have imagined. Not quite. We sunk into silences not known before. Spoke fewer words and those coming out in some wrap of solemnity perhaps too huge for ones our age. I think we aged those months after. Life now becoming more than brag and dare. A fragile gift to be worn with caution, what later we would call a lovely thing where dream and real meet and dance in careful balance.
Doug Bolling's poems have appeared in Water-Stone Review, Kestrel, The Missing Slate (with interview), among others. He has received Best of the Net and Pushcart nominations and, most recently, his poem "Body and Soul" was awarded the Mathiasen prize by the University of Arizona's Harmony Magazine. He lives in the greater Chicago area.