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,
calling, Son, 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.