Last Flag of the River
are everywhere about the river: the porous bog whose underworld has
softened for centuries, the jungles that cat-o-nine tails leap up into.
Once, six new houses ago, one new street ago along the banking, two
boys went to sea on a block of ice. They are sailing yet, their last
flag a jacket shook out in dusk still hiding in Decembers every year.
An old man has strawberries in his backyard. He planted them the year
his sons caught the last lobster the last day of their last storm. Summers,
strawberries and salt mix on the high air. A truck driver, dumping snow
another December, backed out too far and went too deep. His son stutters
when the snow falls. His wife hung a wreath at the town garage. At the
all-night diner a waitress remembers how many times she put dark liquid
in his coffee. When she hears a Mack or a Reo or a huge cumbersome White
big as those old Walter plows used to be, she tastes the hard sense
of late whiskeys. He had an honest hunger and an honest thirst, and
thick eyebrows, she remembers, thick eyebrows.