local_library Winter Sunset Rescue

by Richard Fein

Published in Issue No. 3 ~ April, 1996

So tangled
the leafless briar branches
that what is beyond the swamp is seen only
in fragments:
pieces of open field,
the evening sun glaring through twisted stems.
“Come hold me, hold me,” the plea.
With rope secured around the trunk
and vapor steaming from my mouth, I
upwards curves the rope,
then down, down
splat into the mire that embraces her.
The quicksand gurgles,
her arms flail, again the plea,
“Come hold me, hold me.”
But the rope remains untouched.
I brace for the tension that would tighten the rope;
the sign that she was struggling to survive,
to at least grab the rope,
but the lifeline remains untouched.
I hear again the panicky plea,
“Come hold me, hold me.”
Calves, knees, thighs, breasts,
all in turn are muddied.
Her hands, her hands,
not an inch toward the rope.

Now my muscles relax.
The rope lies limp across the mud,
one end descends into the murk
around bubbles, the dying effervescence.
I release my grip, my palms
striped with rope burns.
I wet my hands; the cold water dampens the throbbing.
A distant bird calls,
an owl hooting, a crow cawing?
I don’t know.
I know only this:
I couldn’t jump in and hold her.
She didn’t grab for the rope.
It’s dark.
It’s becoming too silent.
It’s becoming too cold
I must go on.

account_box More About

Richard Fein had this to say about his poem: "The checkout girl in the poem is real. She's someone I flirted with a long time ago. Part of the writing process is storing disparate images in your brain and combining them in interesting ways. This poem is a synthesis of various experiences. The Elvis and UFO articles are also real, but were not simultaneous with my meeting with the girl."