The slough

I miss my swamp.

I love the useless lands, the lands too wet to plow.
The lands that only bear what they feel like bearing, no potatoes or corn or lumpy squash.
They grew berries and birds’ nests and tussocks of grasses. Hard packed mud in the summer heat, a smooth field of snow in the cold of winter.
And in the seasons between, a sheet of water.

I want to run in the night, the big dogs beside me, two strung out in front of me and one trailing.
I want to get wet to the knees in the tall grass and miss the trail in the dark and get one sneaker soaking wet in the cold water and run on.
I want the Alaskan stars above me and the danger of a moose snorting in his wallowy bed when I race by and disturb him from his rest.
I want autumn leaves and bits of twigs stuck in my messy braids, and torn denim at my knees. 
I want to emerge suddenly from the dark tree-and-night sheltered trail onto the open bank  of the big slough with the moon pointing down at me with silver fingers.
I want to see the wide flat water before me, barely moving, stuck as full of reeds as a porcupine’s back is full of quills. 
And out there, one open patch of water, mirroring the moon.
My dogs go out there, wading belly deep, getting stinking wet, lapping the water and breaking its smoothness.
They’ll come back to me and shake on me and I won’t care, my old gray sweatshirt soaking up the secondhand spray. 

I wasn’t responsible or useful or sensible.
I would stay out late in a place where clocks didn’t dare to go.
I did my Latin homework at three in the morning and my mother didn’t care because she always knew what was really important.
She never even asked, ‘where have you been?’
I left my wet jeans and soaked sneakers and splats of socks to dry dirty and stiff on my bedroom floor. 

For the next night’s running.

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