by William Stratton

Published in Issue No. 165 ~ February, 2011

If I had drowned in the rolling black waters of the Chenango,

passing down the valley between the county roads, my hands

palm down, my face drawing the muddy bottom upwards

with litters of old leaves and rotten logs, the bloated white

of my skin dark against the snowed banks, all of time left to me,

but no longer me to enjoy or suffer it; if it had been me dragged

inexorably towards the Atlantic, destined to feed the bottom

feeders or dredged from a canal years hence, no story I tell now,

nor all that I might come to tell would be enough

to soothe you, to keep the scuffed pine floors silent,

to remove the thought of my ghost from your house

or push patiently until it made sense to outlive your child;

that every November the cabin would seem barebacked

and rotted, the thick limbs of the hanging hemlock

or the stained four-by-fours would sit mutely on one another

begging for the fire, I know there would be no easing

early February, and my brothers could do nothing for you

but sit and watch the gray weight yoked to your shoulders,

and bring on occasion a glass of single malt to brown your lips.

I have spent so much time in error, formulating a space

for you to inhabit, making a bed that is not yours, preparing a home

for you to visit, planning grandchildren you will not hold,

but this is not what you have left me, no more

than if the slow waters allowed me residence, I would leave it for you.

I am sorry for my grief, and I promise to let it pass from me,

if I have the strength to rest it at the memory of your feet.

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William Stratton currently lives and writes in Newmarket, New Hampshire, where he is attending the MFA program at UNH. He believes in the idea that there is no minutia in the work of poetry, and he hopes his poems reflect that. He has been previously published or has poems upcoming in The Cortland Review, 2River, and Untitled Country Review.