Legend

It is the legend, regarding the hole at the Big Eddy
of the Clearwater River to be not bottomless
but a might-as-well-be warren of shelves, caves,
lost and cast-off sand and silt makings
so churned by the river’s hydraulics that every depth-gauge
sinker has spun from it a wasted mile or two
of horizontal measurement it never returns.

Which is why it is we have had to imagine,
these forty or more years after the incident, the three
bystander witnesses now long gone, how carefully
the doctor’s wife must have backed the Cadillac down
the boat ramp and into the water, and how the fat car
strangely floated, turning slowly, sunk to the roofline
until it vanished at what must have been the very mouth

of the myth of bottomlessness itself: one Coupe de Ville
Cadillac, 1963, yellow, windows according to witnesses
rolled up tight, and holding the driver, presumed to be
a twenty-nine year old mother of three children,
presumed also to have been inside. Such is the power
of plain police reportage, and also of the grappling hooks
that over the next week brought to the surface

twelve sunken logs and the carcass of a drowned moose,
before the search was abandoned and a service performed
on the beach there. Here is a black and white picture
of several hundred mourners. Late spring. The beach is pale sand
and white shoes dangle from the fingers of several of the women.
From this angle, the highway roadbed looking down,
the river turns above the eddy like water in a drain.

Go down there now. Down in the slow turn of it, seeing,
and see the Cadillac descend among the many oscillating logs
untouched, scraping not the least outcropping and coming
at last to rest on an only slightly-slanted
shelf, a right rear wheel over the edge and slowing
to a stop. By now the rubber window gaskets
will have disintegrated, and sometimes a sturgeon

longer than the Coupe de Ville itself
will slide its soft sucker mouth along a glassy seam
for no reason but the dim reminder of a soup
it sipped there once. Such is the power of memory,
which this is not. Not of the doctor’s yellow Cadillac, nor
of his beautiful wife behind the wheel and headed out of town.
She looked your way, but you did not see her see you at all.

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