Hayden's Ferry Review

The Cold Brother

By: Angela Hine

Let us say the water  

was cold―it was, cold 

enough to have been frozen 

in the days before, cold enough 

to have been snow on the banks 

just yesterday, though late March 

already, and today, so warm, warm  

enough to tempt two brothers 

to borrow a canoe and put it on the creek,  

warm enough to be a jagged  

crack of spring. 


Let us say the snow was still slushed, 

muddy in the shade, where  

the sun hadn't reached it; two brothers 

forgot to tie the canoe, 

dove in after it, into the creek,  

into the cold, beyond the danger sign 

that said Do not swim beyond this point― 

you see where this is going. 


What depth there, nearing the dam, 

to sweep away, below, one brother 

and hold him, and what strength, 

from the other brother, to grab on,  

to hand, to foot, to some limb, and hold too,  

hold there while treading, and not let go. 


Someone must have witnessed―someone 

called the police, the ambulance, the brothers'  

friends, young men who stripped to jump in, 

who the cops held, screaming, from the banks, 

locked them in their squad cars  

where they watched their friend  

hold his cold brother's hand, 

invisible under the water. 


Could the cold brother hear, through 

the water's rush and thunder, through the ice  

boiling in his lungs, against the fractured  

eighteen years he'd lived, could he hear 

the shouts from the bank pleading  

with his brother to let go, let him go.  

Did he feel his brother's kicks against 

his pulls, the shock waves from his treads, 

his struggle against the suction and the cold, 

or the slap as a rope hit the water's surface. 

Did the cold brother hear the one above 

refuse, cry out my brother, my brother, 

feel him pull back harder, or as hard 

as he could, an hour now in the water. 


What now, on the bank, but waiting, 

those muddied pacing boot marks, 

callingSon, son, let go. He has to let 

go, or be pulled under himself. 

His friends, left screaming 

in the squad cars, faces pressed to the glass, 

waiting too, to be let out: Let us go! 

The cold brother, down below,  

waiting, too, for his betrayal― 

his brother would let him go,  

his body would wash up 

a half mile down, below the dam, 

because yes, the water was cold, 

and even a brother 

can't hold on forever.

Angela Hine is a recent graduate of the MFA in Creative Writing at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. She is currently working as a Technical Writer in Tulsa, Oklahoma.