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Leviathan

Read by Aaron Anstett

An inmate at the Winnebago County Jail escaped for a number of hours before north Iowa authorities captured him.
— KTTC, NBC affiliate, February 12, 2010

When I lie down, I say, When shall I arise, and the night be gone?
— Job, 7:4

There was a time along the river, 
                                 in the snow and cold. I didn't know
where I was going. I had come crashing 
through river birch, willows, 
                                            sumac that tore my feet.
I had no shoes. My pants were a problem. Baggy, striped. 
I took them off. Everything, 
                                                       I took it off. There 
along the frozen river I stripped bare-ass naked –
fat carp were iced into the falls, some big dark owl came over 
quiet as suffering Christ,
                                                                  and I was my body, 
like a boy out all day and who cares how cold it is.
My breaths steamed out in chuffs and huffs,
my tongue tasted weeds and water, 
                                            black leach-track stones 
up from the river's muddy bottom. Beneath the ice, 
even there, the river knows. So I followed.
Wherever it was going.                                 
                                 Red flags trailing from my blue feet. 

Out the country club's picture window, I guess, someone 
saw me. Or my bleeding. 
                      And now I sit here warm as toast,
my body lost, toeless feet black as stones. 
Why? What's it worth?
                                                       I tell you every night 
I dream the Winnebago River, long wing of ice
and leaning penitent trees. Miracle carp 
                                                                  unfroze, flopping 
bare-assed in the snow. Sirens. And this time I stop, 
still as river birch: Above me my owl god 
of flight and silence, 
                                            and having with my own eyes seen, 
I am Job. The falling snow? Not silver coins or rings, 
not some thousand-thousand sheep.
                                 For as they rush out –
rifles, bullhorns, blackshoes, blackshoes –
on my rucked and filthy skin 
                      there is this light-shot skin of snow.
Joe Wilkins lives with his wife and son on the north Iowa prairie, where he teaches writing at Waldorf College. He is the author Killing the Murnion Dogs (forthcoming from Black Lawrence Press) and Ragged Point Road (Main Street Rag 2006); his most recent work appears in Willow Springs, Harvard Review, Alaska Quarterly Review, and Orion, among other magazines and literary journals.