|Two Poems by Ryan Masters
Krist's mother would not mourn her son
until the river produced a body.
Instead she sued the Fairbanks sports store
that rented him a canoe without lifejackets.
When they'd shown her a waiver
with his signature lying illegibly
across its bottom, she refused
to believe it was his hand.
I could not tell her that her son
would not have appreciated the lawsuit
in the same way I could not tell her
there would never be a body,
that he was wedged forever
beneath submerged tree and stone,
pinned down by the roar
of a dark and silted river.
I gave her a tour of the cabin
that her son and I shared. Where I still lived.
I showed her photos, some bottles
and bowls he threw in ceramics class.
Even when I played the scratchy demo tape
our band recorded just weeks before
his death, she would not cry.
Instead, she sat on his empty bed
and looked at the door. As if he could walk
in. As if she wanted
to be sure to meet her son
halfway across the room
with a dry towel
for his wet and tousled hair.
Salmon pack into holes.
Writhe upriver and gasp at
the sky. Lug swollen humps,
thrash rotting tails,
set grotesquely hooked jaws
firmly against the current.
On their way by,
fish nudge his body in the dark.
Pause to rest beside his flaking flesh.
Gather floating chunks of ghost
strength, small bites salted with
the memory of a life, a yesterday,
a home, a mother, perhaps even
with some small part of me.
They are dying, these fish.
Transformed by a ferocious anticipation
into misshapen hunchbacks
with mush for guts and meat
spoiled by the distant
memory of calm water.
A body retrieval unit
drags the river below the rapids
with weighted hooks
hoping to get lucky.
Men in black wetsuits
and masks slip in and out
of the current like great newts.
While from the marshy bank,
a boy throws a line of shining
filament weighted with one un-baited
treble hook out over the river.