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That Picture


by Christopher Bowen


That picture sits by my bed. We danced at night near the great bonfire we had when I was thirteen, the night we burned twelve feet of shrubs, bramble and saplings after digging and clearing the lake to the core bottom with the yellow Caterpillar bulldozers.

The shell caked in the summer sun and cracked a month later and there in its center lay the natural spring. We swam for years once the rainfall filled it, diving twenty feet or more to the cold, alone bottom. I found the mirror in the cold darkness and murk in myself there, too, eventually. The water pump Dad sank to circulate oxygen for the fish. He wouldn't stop at this.

For a number of years, he sank used, dead Christmas trees in the shallows of the lake for bluegill to nest in while I rowed laps in the summer, sometimes morning, while home from college working construction, too. The boat with letters and numbers on the side, the kind that mark the way to register naval fleets of oneself or if you were to hitch the boat and use it in a public waterway or if this was Ohio to begin with like the past.

So strong, my body turned bronze by late summer and kept going, kept messing up at the expensive college in two years like that, could carry brick, block and mortar by the end of two summers faster than anyone I ever knew, and finally could fall like a pancake, brown on the edges, eaten by and large by the entirety of the world like a stack of hotcakes.

There's a way to get dried tar stuck to the fine hairs of your legs off because you wore cut-off jeans to work but, more importantly, you sealed the outside wall of a basement and got the tar on yourself to begin with using the roller. There's an abrasive, orange soap mechanics use and I'm sure it doesn't come in the metal, five gallon buckets the tar does. There's the gasoline you rub on your legs to remove the tar. There's people's futures so bright you should've lit yourself on fire for all the used Christmas trees left by the side of the road.

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