Back Eddy 

By their choice or mine they come and go

like birds on water, birds near the water’s edge:

mallard, merganser, ouzel, gadwall.  Some dip

under.  All rise up, eventually, gone to air.  I watch

a kingfisher from where I stand in the back eddy

slack water, behind this boulder where I once tried

to carve her name.  Kingfishers cut through currents

to minnows underneath, spear them with their beaks. 

Bertie stood once where I stand now, pulled three fish

too big for an osprey to carry, much less a kingfisher:

rainbow, cutthroat, brown.  Laughter and her singing

reel.  Kingfishers laugh more often than they sing.

Some days I bring myself here to where currents

work away at where they touch rock, carvings

I made on the stone’s surface growing smooth.

Some days, I don’t even bother to string the rod

I bring down from the truck, my gesture

to the waterbirds, to the kingfisher perched

on her powerline, always with me, needed or no.


First Close Call


I used to drive fast all the time, faster 

drinking.  I was with Bertie and Bev 

first time it cost me, headed back 

from the Palmer place, last time Bev 

let Bertie bring me to the family homestead.  

Bev used to think the old place was alright 

for drinking. Used to be we all agreed.  

My old sedan, the kind of deal I could pick up 

off rodeo cowboys before all their hard luck 

drained into the night, hit a rut wrong 

on a rise.  We lifted, light as dubbing 

and hackle swung in a tight loop over a river 

seam.  Worn out shocks gave such a softness 

to the ride none of us noticed we had left 

the ground until we hit it again.  All three of us 

in the front seat.  Behind us the empty night 

we were always running from.  Headlights 

shot wild at horizon, gravel, sky.  Twice they

shot at gravel then at the sky. Back then

when you landed upright, if not too broken

you put it back in gear. None of us knew 

Bertie had my boy inside her.


Second Close Call


Below zero, had to be. Ice crystals sparkled 

on the street.  Above, frozen pinpoints, like deer

eyes lit by headlights driving home.  Me, steaming

hot, standing in the street.  In those days, I was 

always on fire.  Buddy, not as soft as now

bare-chested, head against the curb, lolling drunk.  

Dribbles of bloody slime froze his face 

to the gutter.  Me standing, boot raised over him

his bare head.  Clean sound in my ears

my hammer driving nails into the first 

morning boards.  Jumbled sounds from folks 

who stumbled out to watch.  From Bertie, cries

like a baby squalling.  She helped me get my boot 

heel down safe, to stay away long enough 

to let the liquor and red heat drain away.   


On cold nights now, Janie asleep with or without me

all I have to listen to are logs ticking in the woodstove

in the walls as they settle.  I remember Bertie’s eyes 

that night and one other night.  How right she was 

to make me swear I’d stay away when the boy came 

out of her.  How right she was to say heat fills a space 

whether we want it to or not.


Matt Daly’s poetry has appeared in Clerestory, Cortland Review, Pilgrimage, The Screaming Sheep, and elsewhere.  Matt has received a creative writing fellowship in poetry from the Wyoming Arts Council and is the recipient of the 2015 Neltje Blanchan Award for writing inspired by the natural world.  He lives in Jackson Hole and teaches creative writing to tweens, teens and adults.