Volume 31, Number 4

Nonretractable Claws

It takes nine hours for you and your lover to drive to the mountains named after big tits. The drive leads you to believe there is still a West to be conquered. Until you find a roadside stream secured with barbed wire. In a small boat headed towards the mountains a park ranger claims that juvenile bald eagles try to catch fish too big for them to carry. That eagles’ claws do not retract, so they are pulled into the lake, and years later, fishermen pull up fish with eagle skeletons still clinging. 

On a walk around a lake named after its color, you share this story with a friend who gently reminds you about bald eagles and U.S. empire. You remember what fresh water taught you about love when you jumped into a gorge that used to be a glacier. Your feet hit the smooth stone and bounced you gently back to the surface. 

On a Greyhound bus through the land of lakes you share this story with a nineteen-year-old boy who almost played pro baseball. He claims one love, one God, one promise. It takes another nine hours to reach your lover’s family home on an island originally known as land amid the streams, renamed after either the mother-in-law or daughter of an English explorer.

On a park bench on a street named after the Lenape word for smooth stone, you talk about love and water with a man drinking rum from a red solo cup. You’d spent the day walking by a marsh, reading up on the microorganisms that live in fresh water. His eyes widen. He leans over, picks up his phone, and jots down an idea: a story about a woman named Crystal who is not so clear. You joke, you better credit me in the acknowledgments. He replies, maybe a footnote.

—Vani Kannan