Through the Ice
Through the Ice
In memory of Skipper Broich
I think of you now: how your short life ended,
as if on schedule. While you lived,
something invisible seemed to batter you
a demon or force field that smashed you
against every wall. Yet it's not the car
crashes or concussions I recall
but a scene, like a circle of ice, sawn
from the frozen past, its edges jagged, its hues,
even then, minimal, now bleached to a dwindling fire
of colors . . . Do you remember
how you almost died late on that winter evening?
how the thin crust of blacker ice broke under you
and you dropped in the dark so deep on your downward journey?
We’d been coasting all day on some white-dark hill
between trees that brushed our faces
and were walking quickly toward the shortcut
through the woods that lay on the bank of the lake
we trekked over like travelers in the Arctic.
In our triple-knotted boots, our wool scarves
and scuffed bomber jackets, we trudged toward home,
toward the dim light over familiar doorways
and the rich aromas of food our mothers cooked
at the first tinge of twilight. The January sun sank
in slow gradations, each slight hint of darkening a tick
on the clock of childhood. Skipper, you must have been
more hungry, more tired, or just plain younger,
and ran ahead of us to where the thin fabric of ice
ripped into sheer strips of translucent frost.
Shocked to stillness, we held back, then rushed
to where you’d vanished and then returned.
It must have been your brother who calmed you,
who begged you to settle deeper into coldness,
to trust his high and broken voice. Yes,
it must have been Dave who promised
we'd rescue you, who slid his Red Ranger sled
into that gaping hole in the universe
where it found your hands.
Charles Fishman is director of the Distinguished Speakers Program at Farmingdale State University, Associate Editor of The Drunken Boat, and Poetry Editor of New Works Review. His books include Mortal Companions, Blood to Remember: American Poets on the Holocaust, and The Death Mazurka, which was selected by the American Library Association as one of the outstanding books of the year (1989) and nominated for the 1990 Pulitzer Prize in Poetry. His 5th booklength collection, Country of Memory (Uccelli Press), will be out by the end of April, and his 10th chapbook, 5,000 Bells (Cross-Cultural Communications), will be published in August.