I am honored that my poem, “Looking at the Photograph,” was published in the recently released Summer 2013 issue of Naugatuck River Review. NRR, a journal of narrative poetry, is published twice a year and has a contest every winter issue. Editor Lori Desrosiers is committed to publishing well-crafted, modern narrative poetry that celebrates, as NewPages.com notes, “memorable characters. . . the people whose lives show up in small glimpses between the lines.”
Find their web page at: www.naugatuckriverreview.com
Looking at the Photograph
After my brother died, I found a picture of us
fishing in a wooden rowboat with Uncle Norman.
On my brother’s slim rod, a golden-scaled fish
freezes into a question mark. My uncle grins
his scruffy face into the camera, one hand raising
his rod, the other clasping a Schlitz or Budweiser —
whatever cheap beer the corner store stocked
in the cold case, its glass forever fogged.
I had stepped into my uncle’s rowboat so that
this Honesdale farming, hunting, fishing family
would clasp its arms around me. They weren’t fooled.
“Are you afraid to move? Cast your line!”
yelled my cousin, Jimmy. I was ten, and water’s refusal
to support anyone dropped into it frequented
my nightmares. My eight-year-old brother – less afraid
of dying than I – had clumsily raised his rod, cast his line,
and snagged a fish. Now this is the kind of suffering living
involves: Uncle Norman catching the slick fish in his net,
whacking its head on the gunwale and stilling its jerky tail,
his age-spotted hand gripping my brother’s shoulder,
uncut nails digging in, yelling, “Thata boy!” My mother,
attempting to curry favor from relatives who disapproved
of her marriage to my father, but who were too scandalized
by her divorce to allow her back in. My uncle, off the rowboat
and weaving toward more beer, Aunt Blanche slapping
his hand away, and my brother, ricocheting off sugar maples
as he ran from Jimmy, while the threat, “Really teach
you how to swim,” trailed after him into the woods.
The last time I spoke to Jimmy, he didn’t recall the day.
“Must have been when I was really young,” he said,
then offered perfunctory words at my brother’s passing.
Hanging up the phone, I wanted to fall backwards
into water and have it support me, cradle me.
I wanted to drink cheap beer in the sun next to that
water, arch back into warm grass, wake from sleep
knowing who I am.
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