‘Sweeney’s Pond’

This week’s rain and thaw are not good for ice on local ponds, brooks, and lakes, but January is hockey season, so I thought I’d dig this composition out of the vault this morning. The poem was first published in my second full-length collection of poems, Middle Distance (1989). Sweeney’s Pond was the name we gave to a swampy water-hole just off Hildreth Street in Dracut after Colburn Avenue splits off when you are headed north. The last time I drove by there was not much left to the pond, but the woods are not all gone.— PM

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Sweeney’s Pond

Two skaters circled on a large dark square swept clean of last night’s dusting. I pulled my gear from the trunk, slung skates over my shoulder, and stepped down the bank to the pond—the ice crunking under-boot. A father and son were passing a puck, the boy maybe ten; I recognized his dad as a kid I’d known when this place held marathon games. I joined, shooting at a chicken-wire net. A fourth player appeared. He said he’d lived nearby for his seventeen years, asked, “Are you from California? I saw the plates.” I said, “No, I’m from here, just went away for a year.” We shed jackets, picked up the pace, snapping pucks at the goalie. Cotton fly filled the air. A jeep stopped, and another guy crossed the ice. Ernie said, “You remember Mike from Raven Road?” “Oh, yeah.” And Mike remembered me. “I knew there’d be ice, but didn’t think I’d see anyone I know—you guys still live here?” I asked. “We’ll be here for the rest of our lives,” Ernie said. “My brother shot a deer right back there, but we’re losing the woods and fields to builders. Good thing this area’s a bird sanctuary. Y’know Zat’s farm? Zat’s is all houses, from there to the state line.” Then Mike said, “Time to get my own land. I’ve got money now. Had a bad accident at work. Lost an eye—see . . . .” He lifted sunglasses to show me the dead ball. “Got a million bucks for it. Gonna buy land.” I asked about this-and-that person, and where so-and-so had gone. In minutes I’d tracked a handful of lives over the past dozen years. The local report. A slapshot cracked my Sherwood stick. The snow had let up. Sitting on tan swamp grass, I unlaced my skates. “Gotta go—I’ll be back.”

—Paul Marion (c) 1989

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