prose poem by Jerome Daly
They haven’t changed the combination lock, and I realize I’m now trespassing on what was once my uncle’s land. I camped here with the Boy Scouts, played flashlight tag — caught my first bass. Spent lazy Sundays with family, swimming in the clear water, jumping in once in the middle of February—a day like today. I came by myself, hiked in all seasons, watching the hemlocks slowly dying away. My cousins, so little, would swim naked — floating like porcelain buoys. One fall, walking with my uncle, we watched a large group of white ducks diving to catch fish before they continued south. Mergansers. My uncle accidently shot himself once in the stomach with a Browning 22, the bullet bouncing off his ribcage — exiting through his left testicle. I spent one summer with my brother digging holes with a posthole digger, building a fence for the cows, feeding slop to the pigs, sleeping on a couch covered with Collie hair, looking at Hustler magazines my uncle left on the bathroom floor. Sometimes I would bring my sawed off shotgun, blowing up watermelons, beer cans and bottles. My sister got married here; I couldn’t go since I was in jail. In high school we’d take out the pontoon boat, drinking Budweiser and whiskey, listening to Janice Joplin, The Doors, and Hendrix. I brought a girl once, and we skinny-dipped under a full moon, exploring the strange whiteness between us. It was both our first time. My uncle’s heart stopped while driving, with my aunt in the passenger seat, his foot slipping off the gas pedal coasting to a stop. My aunt was the first one to reach out to me when I got sober, the first one to tell me everything would eventually work out. She went into palliative care at Mass General nine months after my uncle died. I called, only able to speak with a cousin — my aunt in a coma. The path looks strange — I’ve never seen it unplowed, the only indents left in the snow are from the paws and hooves of animals, all of them melting.
Jerome Daly is an alumnus of UConn, a recent graduate of the MFA Program at the University of New Hampshire and 2017 recipient of the Dick Shea Memorial prize in poetry. His poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Gamut, Leveler Poetry, The Chaffey Review, and the Long River Review.