I  was invited to go power boating

on the Illinois River on Labor Day.

My elderly hosts were retired.

He had been a builder, she a teacher –

caring folk looking out for a stranger.

They had Scottish ancestry, they told me,

and confessed, laughing, that they had spent

the previous night imbibing Drambuie.

We spoke warmly of the water of life.

‘But no drinking on board!’ they chorused.

Old Glory hung limply in their yard

in the soupy Mid-West September air.


While the wife fixed lunch in the galley,

I stood next to the husband at the wheel

while the boat bucked and slapped and dodged.

‘We’d be goners if we hit the driftwood.’

The forests on either side were pristine,

he explained. ‘There were Indians here.’


‘Come and get it!‘ He steered towards the bank

and a moorage. He turned to me, speaking

softly. ‘Our youngest boy, Callum, died…

in Iraq last December. Just so you know.’




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  1. #1 by John Huddart - October 16th, 2013 at 22:08

    It is the drama and feeling of this poem that draws me back. The water’s turbulent power, the hints of patriotism, the below the surface griefs. It is a bigger story, that needs no greater canvas.

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