New Writing

A selection of upcoming works

Astrakhan

Tobias Hill

 

The year my father died, I went alone to Astrakhan.
I was writing my first novel, and needed to see the Caspian.

The river was frozen thick.
I walked out onto it. I watched the fishermen,
bent over holes, to get the sense
of what to look for in good ice; and having looked,
I started south, alone, towards the inland sea.

I didn’t go out there to die. After Astrakhan,
there were birchwoods and factories.
There were no more fishermen.
I walked the river south for hours, in a silver light,
and in that time I saw no one.

It was slow going. I felt
with my feet, as best I could,
where the ways ahead were strong,
but without really knowing how
to test the temper of the ice.
I didn’t know its qualities,

and once there was a groaning
that spread out wide ahead of me,
giant under the silver trees,
its echoes following for miles.

This all happened years ago.
I don’t remember now
how far I walked. What I know
is that I never reached the sea,
and that I didn’t go to die,

only to find out if I would,
and heard my warning underfoot:
that ice groaned like a thing dying.

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