Near Colebrook

by William Doreski

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A fork in snowy logging roads.
When I turn right, the route devolves
from second-growth scrub oak and pine

into marsh that’s mucky-warm
even in midwinter. Years ago,
trying to blaze a route to Colebrook,

I drove down rutted woods roads
until my truck stalled. Then I climbed
a hill and looked over my shoulder

at the landscape I’d left behind.
A huge sprawl of lake shivered
deep and glossy gray, motionless,

drowning all the scenery
I’d imagined I’d driven through.
Walking ten miles back to Colebrook,

I met someone who claimed he’d escaped
from a carnival freak show the week
before, having slain his keepers.

He gave me the folding knife he’d used
to hack the thugs to blubber. No trace
of blood remained. What sort

of freak was he? A common man:
husky but hardly fat, plain
but pleasant face, he embodied

nothing of the transmundane,
so I dismissed his tale. In Colebrook,
however, a newspaper reported

someone had knifed two employees
of a traveling carnival
and then vanished with the cash box.

Now I turn away from the marsh
and mount the slope and refuse
to look back. I learned that much,

anyway, the forest cringing
in a creaky metallic breeze
and the cries of the murdered men

still adhering to the knife I keep
in my pocket to remind me
how possible all crimes are.


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