The Wild Edge

Two nights ago I found four otter
in my half frozen pond. Wild things
fighting their way back in. The beaver
retaking the bottoms had dammed
the small creek for miles along its course.
Mortised with mud, the cross laid tangles
of tooth-scarred logs effectively
raised an otter freeway. Smelling
the concentration of fish in the pond
above, they’d signaled an exit,
slithered over the creek bank,
bounded up the facing cliff and slid in.

Along the Mississippi river last fall
a friend had noticed squatters
homesteading a jagged ditch
draining the steep hillsides near his house.
Throwing up makeshift lean-to’s of
haphazardly rusting corrugated tin,
they’d drug up junk washers,
dryers, TVs, car parts, piles of odd,
amnesiac motors of arcane
and uncertain birth.

The otters watched as I walked
out on the dock. Continuing to swim,
they held their heads above water,
soft talking, chirring, I suspect,
how stupid, hunched over, unadapted,
I looked, freezing in the cold wind.

Guys still living in the ditch?
I asked my friend. Could have been
a rough couple weeks for them
with this interwoven wave upon wave
of bitter cold, thaw, freezing rain.

Thin islands of surface ice still
skate the pond. Fish snared, fighting,
one otter surfaces, lunges up on the ice,
slips back several times, ice breaking
under him. He makes it up for a moment,
holds, then falls back again. Likely
ate the fish but I didn’t get to see it.

Single digits over night. Yup,
he said, Still there. Livin’
on the wild edge of falling through.

They start drinking their 40s of natty
ice early. By afternoon
they hardly feel the chill.

About the author

Tim Laffey says he's an old guy now. When he was young he wrote some, then got sidetracked. He got a city job, got…

Read the full bio

Issue 18 · June 2013

Table of contents