Anesthetic
by Heather McGrew


She’s called Superior, named for her depth: the deepest
of all Great Lakes sustains
those around her, offers trout, smelt in season, pike;
her water is channeled to faucets, ready to nourish
lawns, grow flowers and vegetables. Summers
she takes in people, cools the skin
of those who enter her, cools
others who come close to her with a lake breeze and draws
fishermen who slap at mosquitoes all night just
to sit before her, drop bait in her belly, wait
to see what abundant life throbs below.

But winter always comes and with it: numbing
cold. She freezes over in part, kills
some weak species within her, leaves only the heartiest
of fish, draws only the heartiest of fishermen who build
houses on top of her, drill holes
in her surface, drop down
bait and wait, and wait
for signs of life (a nibbling, a jerking of the line
from the frigid depths of her) like a husband waits
by the bed of his wife for a twitch of a hand
or foot, for a spark of recognition
in her eyes to show the brain will fight
atrophy.

But sometimes fish don’t bite.

The hand keeps still, whatever life within grows sluggish, dull
like that wife’s brain after Alzheimer’s: What once sustained
her grew numb, froze over,
left her staring at carpeting, lights, patterns in the wallpaper—
left her grasping at her pocket for a slip of paper
on which is scrawled, in shaky hand
and bright red crayon, the name
of her husband.






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