(for G.W.)

Uncle Greg owned a three-room cottage on Lake Silverthorn
near Hayward, Wisconsin.
When my family was young
we went there many summers
and used his john boat or cast off the floating dock
for bluegills and catfish.
Baby bats lived behind the storm shutters.
A fly strip hung from the fluorescents in the kitchen,
the lights echoing the stuck bugs’ stilled buzz.

My father told me not a month ago
that Greg had eaten a slice of coconut cream pie;
he’d put on most of the weight he’d lost;
he’d phoned to rib him about this and that.
He’s back to his old self again, dad had said.
Not a month later dad called at 10:17 a.m.
He was only 58 years old.

On Lake Silverthorn we learned
to singe a tick sunk into our flesh
with the smoking tip of a match.
To row out on the water in orange life vests
clicked close around our chests.
To snag the writhing flesh of minnow, leech and worm,
our fingers staining with smells of shit, blood and hook.

Last summer on the way home from a family trip
we stopped at the cottage, newly sided in eggshell yellow,
a silver padlock fastened through the front door.
A late-June rain drummed its fingers on the lake’s still surface
and the floating dock rocked gently.
Cattails bent and pines whispered. They watched us standing there,
warm and wet and looking out at the water,
the scents of blood and metal still sharp in our skin.

 

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