Engaged [poem] by Lowell Jaeger

We’re side by side, my daughter and I,
walking a country road. Her fiancée
had squandered eighty bucks on a battered
canoe, brought it home all excited,
and hooked his prospective spouse
for a rollercoaster shoot through the rapids.

It’s a piece of junk, she tells me,
can’t be safe. She’s talking about the canoe
and drifting toward topics more topsy-turvy.
The canoe looks like it’s been stashed
long years in someone’s hayloft
after crashing over Niagara Falls a time or two.

Neither of us knows how to paddle,
she says. He’d said he did, and I’d
trusted him. There’s a treacherous current
in her voice. We walk on, silent.
I worry I’m making a big mistake, she says.

Was it any fun at all? I ask.
Sure, she says, I guess. Maybe so.
He just kept telling me what to do
and I kept yelling at him what to do, she says,
and somehow we stayed afloat

and made it home. Geez, she shakes her head.
She’s smiling a little secret smile.
What is it? I ask. Geez, she says again,
can’t believe we laughed afterwards. She adds,
It’s so much work, isn’t it, trying to get along.


Image of 1930s Switchboard Operator

[Refer: this poem put the editors in mind of the story “Anything But That” by Kathryn Trueblood.]

Image by Jeffrey Bary B

As founding editor of Many Voices Press, Lowell Jaeger compiled Poems Across the Big Sky, an anthology of Montana poets, and New Poets of the American West, an anthology of poets from 11 western states. His third collection of poems, Suddenly Out of a Long Sleep (Arctos Press) was published in 2009 and was a finalist for the Paterson Award. His fourth collection, WE, (Main Street Rag Press) was published in 2010. He is the recipient of fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Montana Arts Council and winner of the Grolier Poetry Peace Prize. Most recently Jaeger was awarded the Montana Governor’s Humanities Award for his work in promoting thoughtful civic discourse.