minnesota north shore

the steep incline that is the north shore

your hands splayed flat against the rocky, concrete edge of a wall as you tip your head over to examine the endless stretch of water in the canal. your dad argues beside you how the current can’t be that strong, and your eyes trail the little flutter of paper you’d dropped in for example. the lift bridge’s alarm tings suddenly, and your head bobs up to catch sight of an iron ore ship coming in. when you glance down at the water again, the paper is gone.

it’s been twenty below for three weeks straight. your neighbors mutter to themselves, endless, endless, this cold stretch is endless. the national news doesn’t say a thing, even when it snows for weeks and in july there’s still snow piled up behind the football field. the next week it hits zero and it feels like the kiss of god.

“no swimming,” says a sign staked out at the beach because the tide has come in. no one says anything about drowned kids, but the sentiment is implied. 

in spring there is a code: jackets and pants are tourists, t-shirts and shorts are locals. don’t think we can’t tell who you are by how you dress here.

people swim in this lake, contrary to popular belief. when you were eight you would swim in june even though your whole body went completely numb, and you would walk out to the sandbar until you could barely see your mother on the shore. sometimes you wondered what would happen if the tide just took you.

lot #12 is pressed back into the woods, the number spray painted onto a block of cement tangled with foliage, and there’s inevitably a spray of broken glass in the lot. the benefit: not a soul around and the sand feels like silk between your toes.

61 up the shore. countless accidents. you climb along the edges of cliffs in your rattletrap car as waves beat against the shore beneath you. another accident today, another dead. another another another

you’re walking home in the snow and you stop to look up at the sky. everything is whisper quiet, fading into white and gray as the orange glow of a streetlight flickers to life above you. a flake of snow brushes your nose, and there’s the distant wail of sirens. 6-10 inches they said. that means at least a foot.

school never cancels. they’d rather lose a few first graders than go longer into june. it’s a sacrifice, i suppose.