In an Angry Season
They’ve gone to witness the river’s mad
descent into spring. The heave and thunder
as the ice shakes itself from the shore,
the way the frozen slabs–pachyderm grey
and similarly sized–shear one into
another as the Yukon shudders awake.
From a hawk’s height the pipeline bridge
mocks the river’s riot and churn. Perched
there, they watch–then his pale hand
turns her tawny face to his and
they kiss, roar of loosed ice echoing.
They are both just nineteen.
And now they sit, hands clutching brown
bottles, in a one-room cabin turned
tavern. A wooden counter, scabbed over
with men’s names. A naugahyde couch,
slouching by the door. One man at the bar,
face flat in a puddle of beer.
His phlegmy snores. The room choked
with smoke. The one they call Dirty Dave
is telling a story: “We picked up this squaw
hitching her way into town. Weren’t no room
in the cab, so she crawled in back. I went after her.
I said, whatever you hear, boys,
don’t stop this truck.” Laughter. He grins,
gap-toothed and mean. Leers at the girl.
“I like it when they fight.” She shivers.
Twists at a strand of her black hair.
Her boyfriend draws her closer.
Six men–they’ve been drinking
all winter. One girl. One nervous
boyfriend. A mining camp a hundred miles
or more from town. And Dave stares
at the girl. “What do you think of that?”
And she thinks: There is so much evil
in this world. And she thinks of her hand,
squeezing the bottle till it breaks, scraping
this man’s face to bone with the shards.
And she thinks of the river, how in some
angry seasons it could not be contained–
bridges snapped like thread, whole villages
devoured by the Yukon’s flood and fury.
And she hears the river shift and growl.
Lisa D. Chavez
from In An Angry Season, Camino del Sol, 2001