Iowa Writes

MIEKE EERKENS
"Dredge"


The canals of Amsterdam horseshoe the city, cradling its people in a watery nest. We will stand on bridges in the summer dusk and watch the green and brick refracted in its endless mirror, and we will stand on bridges in the steely winter watching the snow alight softly on the canal's frozen stage. When the ice thaws in the spring, a barge lumbers through to dredge the bottom for debris. Searching the depths before it, the barge's orange crane drops its claw into the murky depths to grope blindly into centuries of silt, and emerges with the skeletons of bicycles in its maw. Their rusted corpses rise through opacity and blossom onto the surface. They are piled onto the decks until they tower in an aluminum shrine to the rattling of wheels over cobblestones and the echoes of bells against the houses that witnessed it all. 12,000 bicycles a year, excavated from this mass grave.

The canals of Amsterdam horseshoe the city, cradling its people in a watery nest. We will stand on bridges in the summer dusk and watch the green and brick refracted in its endless mirror, and we will stand on bridges in the steely winter watching the snow alight softly on the canal's frozen stage. When the ice thaws in the spring, a barge lumbers through to dredge the bottom for debris. Searching the depths before it, the barge's orange crane drops its claw into the murky depths to grope blindly into centuries of silt, and emerges with the skeletons of bicycles in its maw. Their rusted corpses rise through opacity and blossom onto the surface. They are piled onto the decks until they tower in an aluminum shrine to the rattling of wheels over cobblestones and the echoes of bells against the houses that witnessed it all. 12,000 bicycles a year, excavated from this mass grave. When the barges become still under Rembrandt's dimming sky, the ghosts of the bicycles will begin to whisper about what they saw down there. They speak of the three dead bodies fished up amid their twisted spokes this year: The drunk who toppled in after the bars were closed. The overeager adventurer who fell through the ice in the moonlight. And the aching soul who stopped her bicycle in the fog one night under the ever-present specters of those who watched these canals from shaded attic windows before they were ratted out and dragged away. See her now, her bicycle white like bone beneath her seat. Her breath comes in puffs in the cold night air. She looks out over the canal, contemplative for a moment. And then she rides and sails, airbound for a moment before breaking the surface and sinking fast, finding her way through still waters to the city beneath, a city swallowing decades of pain and welcoming her into its fold.

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About Iowa Writes

Since 2006, Iowa Writes has featured the work of Iowa-identified writers (whether they have Iowa roots or live here now) and work published by Iowa journals and publishers on The Daily Palette. Iowa Writes features poetry, fiction, or nonfiction twice a week on the Palette.

In November of 2008, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) designated Iowa City, Iowa, the world's third City of Literature, making the community part of the UNESCO Creative Cities Network.

Iowa City has joined Edinburgh, Scotland and Melbourne, Australia as UNESCO Cities of Literature.

Find out more about submitting by contacting iowa-writes@uiowa.edu


MIEKE EERKENS

Mieke Eerkens is a Dutch-American writer born and raised in California, and an MFA candidate in the University of Iowa's Nonfiction Writing Program. Her work has appeared in Creative Nonfiction, Best Travel Writing, and the recent Norton anthology, Fakes, among others, and she was recently nominated for a Pushcart Prize. She is working on a book about her father's internment in a Japanese civilian prisoner of war camp during WWII.

"Dredge" first appeared in the book Open to Interpretation: Water's Edge. It is reprinted with permission of the author.

This page was first displayed
on March 25, 2013

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