Alan Falkingham

A perfect hole in the ice, sawed clean and round,
at Clearwater Lake, where grey meets grey
and the horizon is just a scalpel cut.
That perfect hole, where Ely Lundgren fell
and where Ely is still,
clawing, a fossil trapped in quartz.

A giant catfish, whiskers thick as hangman’s rope,
tangled his line and pulled him down.
Bottle o’ Jack skittering across the ice,
like a skimming stone.
They say that is what happened to Ely,
out at Clearwater Lake.

But Lauren Lundgren’s eyes spill untruths,
knotting her hands across an ice sheet table.
When I ask questions, the answers slide from her
wearily, like snow tumbling,
too heavy for the branches of the pines
that hug the shore at Clearwater Lake.

She tells me her story. Deception,
full of half truths, bellies of lies,
like a Clearwater cloud, brimful of snow.
Because I have heard what they say,
in Stig’s bar, on football bleachers, at the fish fry.
This town knows.

This town has seen the colors of magpie wings
on Lauren’s arms and hollow cheekbones.
Hiding beneath her hoodie,
her story battered and worn,
looping, like Ely’s knuckles tying his hook,
beside a perfect hole at Clearwater Lake.

How she might have crept behind him
while he tipped back his head to drink his bourbon,
a steady waterfall of autumn.
How she might have sent him pitching forward,
his last yelp, scattering birds,
dark brushstrokes streaking the Clearwater sky.

I hear her, but I choose not to listen,
her brokenness too deep to ever thaw.
For Ely is not mine to land.
Instead, I love her and let her go,
casting line until I cut her free.
Out at Clearwater Lake,
where grey meets grey.