-the Mississippi River regions in Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, and Illinois


The hunters loved the gusts that drove the ducks low
against the white November sky, scattering them
from waterholes into the open fields and sloughs.
Halved by the wind, the corn stalks clattered
in the strange balmy air. In little more than flannel,
the men anticipated the next hunt, noting the tracks
of the tentative deer to water, the prints of their long bodies
laid down to rest when forage would carry them no more.
The men laid their own tracks down, their boot steps
etching into loam that hardened when the rain needled to sleet
and the plummeting started—from sixty to freezing in hours.
Later, a white-out erased two trains head-on.
Amazed at clouds of ducks racing above the river bluffs,
the darkness of snow closing in, more than 100 men
turned over in their dry mouths the words rescue and death,
words so far away when they ate their breakfast toast and eggs.
In that well-lit kitchen, they had imagined the small fire they’d make
to stave off the damp, tipping a flask of heat to their raw lips,
and later raising rifles to silence the heavy sound of wings.

~  ~  ~

Jennifer FandelJennifer Fandel‘s poetry has recently appeared or is forthcoming in Prairie Gold: An Anthology of the American HeartlandMeasureRHINOThe Baltimore ReviewCalyxArchitrave Press EditionsMidwestern Gothic, and A Face to Meet the Faces: An Anthology of Contemporary Persona Poetry. She has lived up and down the Mississippi River, from northwestern Wisconsin where she was raised, to Louisiana, Minnesota, southern Illinois, and now St. Louis, Missouri. The river’s stories and landscapes remain a constant fascination in her life.