We grew up on fear and became heroes…
– Poetry by David Magill –
Seven and Dying
Fifty feet of nylon line and a milk jug
stretched across the bay.
Twenty hooks, mostly trebles, hung waiting;
chicken liver and dough balls luring them in.
The year before, we hauled one in that was bigger than me;
horns on the flat part of its head and scales
the size of house shingles.
His body was alive with violent twists,
his eyes were dead and black.
I cut him loose and watched him disappear
into a thick, green swirl.
as we approached the spinning jug,
I heard the motor cut off.
We drifted a few feet and the anchor went over.
“Ain’t we gonna go get ‘im?”
through a mouth full of sunflower seeds.
I turned toward him as he was untying a buoy
from the side of the boat.
“Take your life jacket off, son.”
Maybe it was the sound of his voice. Maybe
the way the cottonwoods looked
in the last light of evening,
black trunks and the silver shimmer of rustling leaves.
“But I can’t swim.”
He nodded, the husk of a seed stuck to his chin.
“That’s why we’re here.”
I must have said I didn’t want to,
the fish were too close,
but he was not listening
he was leaning into me,
standing me up,
and I hit the water, rolling
my lungs filling, my eyes burning
the terror ripping through me as I thrashed
for the surface.
I kicked (swam)
in the direction of the dock,
away from the shore, away
from the man-eating Catfish
that lurked on hooks,
hungry for the real deal,
waiting for me to get close,
to be devoured,
to be killed,
flesh from bone, blood from vein,
eating me as I drowned,
I think I may have seen him,
if he knew
I would survive.
Spanning a small stretch of hillside
long before my father brought me there,
was a valley of sand, rock, and hanging
willow branches keeping me safe
from the enemies of my little boy world.
I learned how to hate with my bare feet buried
in the dark cool of Minnesota grit,
my knees gravel-scraped and bleeding.
I imagined all the people drinking
the piss of a dog
as I longed for the cover
of a brooding moon.
I understood nothing of myself
my wherewithal destroyed
imploded on its tip-toes, ready
to plunge through me,
as a witch to her toil.
With sand in my mouth
cracking my teeth, I seethed,
biting down to keep
I imagined the faces
of the people being trampled
by red horses
but I was not among them
I was climbing an iron ladder
in the distance,
my tongue forked at my lips
my head a box of hammers,
the rungs as I climbed.
Stripped willow branches became whips
sand rocks crumbled in my grip
and all the people
were gone and
I wandered home, having learned
the other side
The Top of the World
Knee deep in a cold white snow,
tramping along the roof-line
with rainbow moon boots and a spit soaked
black and red face mask,
we remembered the Alamo so
it was winter in Texas
for a Minnesota moment.
Standing on the edge with silver swords
and brown rifles, staring into a 4 footer below,
from fifteen feet away, Davey Crockett
in a ripped blue snow suit rises …
We Grew up on fear and became heroes
on every weekend, taking turns diving
into the unpacked powder,
landing in a dull splash,
feigning death and defeat.
Too many marshmallows
and a barrel stove in the fort below,
weapons hanging from the walls;
rakes, shovels, glass jars with old nails…
We never knew then
why we would remember it all
Still today, tomorrow,
gripping the edge of that memory,
we do not
About the Author – David Magill
David Magill, born in Kansas City, Missouri, moved to Minnesota as a young boy and grew up on a hobby farm in Afton.
He has been married to his wife, Patti, for 23 years.
His work has recently been published in Metonym, The Esthetic Apostle, and Cagibi.
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