Losing Father's Pocketwatch

I lean to heft the anchor in, when oh,
it’s gone . . . spinning down gold,
to copper, to black, into the crappie hole,
and cold terror climbs the rungs of my spine.

After father learns, he stands like a sentry
on the dock. Night drifts up slow, a glacier
of coal, as he surveys the jade-black lake,
breath pouring thick from the chimney
of his throat. It seems time has stopped,
or turns underwater in the watch alone.

Rooted on porch steps, I witness him
strip his shirt, bend, and dip flannel
to cool his severe brow. By now, the sky
is a massive anvil, and I wish I’d hammered

the watch to dust, mangled the hands
before his eyes till he slapped me hard.
Instead, he spears out arms and buries
himself in water, hopelessly kicking
toward the hole, the sharp smacks
of his strokes ringing the air.

: Gregory Fraser, Strange Pietà (2003)

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