Lake Ice in the River

Cynthia Bostwick, Port Huron • Runner-up, Poetry


This year, as every year, the lake ice in the gray river
floats south.
Lower down it will jam
and lock tight the channel.
No ships will move
and docks will break with the press of it;
nothing can stop
the ice from deepening,
and choking the water,
except the warm sun
coming later.
One year a dog was caught
mid river when the ice
began to break up.
He must have begun to cross
from Michigan to Ontario
too late in the season of ice
when the warmer sun begins to loosen the
ice into floes. Trapped on a piece
of floating ice from the northern lake,
frigid water all around him,
those who saw him said he would
run to the edge of the white ice,
but stop just short of jumping into
the deepening dark of the river.
No one knows what happened to the dog.
We heard him barking after dusk,
as he passed by our small town
and then the deep night and
the swift current swept him into silence.
I like to think the
dog eats ribs
on Mt. Elliot
in the back of some
barBque joint there.
Neon red, the sign flashes
out front but the real attraction is
Outside the kitchen door, around back.
A dumpster: beside it a
plate of scraps left by
a kindly cook
who has courted the dog since
early spring when the broken ice
knocked up against the shore along
industrial Jefferson.
The dog leapt off the ice at last
and ran a few blocks
into Black Bottom —
a country dog
enchanted by the smells of the city
but wary of the dark hands and exotic voices
begging him to be
domestic again.
He can never be but a wild dog
having ridden to another world,
carried by the ice of Huron to
a promised land of fat and flavor
when the sun broke him free.
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