Boy broke his leg on a pine tree. He fell pretty rough.
He collapsed swanlike. And he wanted to. And he
was only ten. Snapped twigs with his leg.
Police released hounds when he didn’t come home.
Hounds love the smell of crushed elderberries and winter.
He was gazing at hoarfrost. How hoarfrost
resembled his own foggy breath. How cold it was.
It made the lake blush silver. And his girl was drifting
on the lake. Drift meaning glide. Glide meaning her skate
caught part of the lake and she tripped. It could have been worse.
She could have fallen in. Skate could catch latent
weedgrass, a fish’s rib. Of course he wanted to check
if she was alright. He saw her rise up. He didn’t care.
A duty’s a duty. He found his calling. Boy broke
his leg on a pine tree. He climbed up there to watch
winter set a scene. Who knows how long it took him
to balance on a branch. And what time he began.
He climbed a long way to fall that quickly.
Wind offered no rustling. Wind offered no hollow
tunnel to carry his cry for help. That was his suffering
to deal with. The girl got up and reclaimed her balance.
She went on to the stronger part of the lake.
If she only looked up, she would have seen him
fall through branches. She could have saved him,
but that was not her duty. She could have mistaken
his quick fall for a hunted dove. Her heart
would break more for the dove. Red the round
elderberry in her hand. Red the blood on wing or knee.
It’s all the same. Girl doesn’t know how
to save something broken. She can only move
on. Cry one tear if she is quick enough
to wipe it away. It could freeze on her cheek
and she doesn’t need a mark for loss
visible on her face. The sun fell. She thought
of a swan tucking beak into wing. That’s
what all days must be like. All fall gracefully.
She was mistaken. If she just looked up
she could have saved him. Someone else
will find him. Someone else will drag him home.
Carly Joy Miller's work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Adroit Journal, Blackbird, Boston Review, Third Coast, Vinyl Poetry, and elsewhere. She has been nominated for a Pushcart and was a finalist for the Stadler Fellowship. She is the assistant managing editor for The Los Angeles Review, a contributing editor for Poetry International, and a founding editor of Locked Horn Press.