by Paige Ackerson-Kiely
They called me down and I went down and arrived. My uniform was basically clean; a life alone makes the need for external demonstration almost disappear, but not fully. One thing I hate is when you get there and it’s all over. Like felled trees after a storm you have to cut up and drag them off the road. But not really the same thing. I knew it would be an important day when someone first hollered help in my direction. Mostly it is small jobs, unlocking cars and checking on the elderly. Sometimes they think I am their son and cry when I leave. Other times they are pretty much dead and I call the paramedics. None of the situations is good. I was north of town when the dispatcher crackled to me. Her clothes found in the river, hung up on some rocks, probably she got taken in the storm—but I was still uneasy, even though nature is out of my hands, which should be a relief like it is to be a child and not a man. Beside the river there was an old mattress and a woman’s swimsuit, the kind that was in style 5 years ago, with ties on either side of the leg openings that you cinch or relax, depending on company. Water’s high and full of silt, and it smelled like squash bugs and my ex-girlfriend’s neck when she worried about money. There was never enough of anything but I guess I got used to it. She was still beautiful from a distance and always in my memory delivered on a soft cloud. I didn’t make a grab for her shirt as it drifted away, there on the banks, sun as bright as I’d ever seen it. I was afraid to be pulled under.
published in Ottawa by above/ground press
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Paige Ackerson-Kiely [see her 12 or 20 questions here] authored the poetry collections In No One’s Land (Ahsahta, 2007), My Love is a Dead Arctic Explorer (Ahsahta, forthcoming) and a limited edition art folio/ collaboration, This Landscape (Argos Books, 2010). Paige lives in rural Vermont, edits the poetry annual A Handsome Journal, and works at a homeless shelter.