- My brother hits me hard with a stick
- so I whip a choke chain
- across his face. We’re playing
- a game called Dynamite
- where everything you throw
- is a stick of dynamite,
- unless it’s pine. Pine sticks
- are rifles and pinecones are grenades,
- but everything else is dynamite.
- I run down the driveway
- and back behind the garage
- where we keep the leopard frogs
- in buckets of water
- with logs and rock islands.
- When he comes around the corner
- the blood is pouring
- out of his nose and down his neck
- and he has a hammer in his hand.
- I pick up his favorite frog
- and say If you come any closer
- I’ll squeeze. He tells me I won’t.
- He starts coming closer.
- I say a hammer isn’t dynamite.
- He reminds me that everything is dynamite.
- He baits the hook with an Indian Paintbrush petal,
- lets out the line, reels, traps it with his thumb pad.
- October. Powder on the peaks. We float on a raft
- lashed together with a loose weave of duct tape and rope.
- I paddle us forward with a cottonwood branch,
- my leg in the water for a rudder, trying to hold us close
- to the darkness of the drop-off where the trout go
- to stay cool in the afternoons. Later we’ll make a fire
- and cook our catch with blueberries gathered frozen
- from the cirque above the tarn. We’ll blow on the coals.
- We’ll check for tenderness. We’ll add ash in place
- of salt. But for now I’m watching the sunlight
- bounce off the surface and shimmer in the shadow
- under my brother’s hat. The way he plays the line.
- The way he lets it troll behind us. The way the trout
- cloud our wake and flick their rainbowed sides.
- I’m torquing my leg underwater. I’m turning us back
- toward the darkness we’ve drifted away from.
- Sometimes my brother and I let go
- of rage and snuck in the garage to cut
- fistfuls of beef from the chest freezer,
- then lay side by side in the pines waiting
- for animals to come. We didn’t speak.
- Hardly even breathed as we played
- dead on the rust-colored needles,
- the clods of meat cupped loosely
- in our upturned palms. And if we waited
- long enough, if we let the clods thaw
- and seep their blood-deep sweetness,
- sometimes a chipmunk slunk up
- and nuzzled into our isthmus, crossing
- timidly from his hand to mine,
- mine to his, chewing. Its hunger
- like an invisible line strung between us.
Anders Carlson-Wee is the author of forthcoming The Low Passions (W.W. Norton, February 19, 2019), which includes the poems that appear here. You can order his book and explore more of his work online at: www.anderscarlsonwee.com.
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