Race

by Mark Mansfield

This morning I walked down to the cove, as calm
and hushed as if a ghost had spooked it. On
some nights, alone on the dock, I’ve seen his face

while gazing into the water; then it’s gone.
A natural-born duelist, those “double dares,”
how quickly I outswam him. One summer day,

years later, implored to clear the woods “down there,”
from what remained of the boathouse came a noise,
his strokes on the rotted ribs of Cape Kidd’s Vamp.

Swimming to where I thought I’d heard his voice,
I dove, sure when I came up that “Marco” ‘d shriek
For “Polo,” reviving the dare. Then one leg cramped,

jerking like a bullfrog gigged, or the sideshow freak
we’d seen at a carnival over near Kent that fall.
I’ve never recalled reaching the buoy, just the shouts

of the neighbor’s sons fishing off our dock, the squall
not yet visible out past the barrier rocks
as the splash of something across the cove fanned out,

a moment before I heard one oarlock
slam the buoy’s leeward, a coarse dark hand
firmly grasping me, pulling me into his boat.

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About Mark Mansfield

Biography
Mark Mansfield's poems have appeared in various publications, including The Adirondack Review, Antietam Review, Bayou, Blue Mesa Review, The Evansville Review, Fourteen Hills, Gargoyle, Good Foot, The Ledge, Magma, Orbis, Salt Hill, Scrivener, Tulane Review, and Unsplendid.