Everyone was under the weather. For a week we'd
watched the clouds stack up in front
of the Chugach Range and then snow
began fallingslowly at first, later heavy and wet
filling the eaves, power lines sagging all
afternoonthen the winds came
snatching the gray cloud-wall, scudding
it south, whipping the air into ice.
I had to feed the woodstove myself.
Again and again I went out the backdoor, my
husband's serious boots on my feet, to ratchet
the handle on the stubborn hydraulic machine
splitting logs, loading the bin with kindling and
fatwood, nourishing the fire until my face froze
my milk flowed and my body broke out in a sweat.
Feverish, helpless, my husband watched from a window
upstairs, breathing circles of steam on the glass. Later,
he shivered and ate soup from a can, convinced the
power would never come on, that the ice would
never melt. He said we should leave this terrible
place. I said not yet. I said I wanted to wait
for the arctic harenearly the size of a two-year-old
child and so white against the snowto change
back into her summer-brown.
And for everything else that would come after.
Blue Willow Plate
On Saturday I walked six blocks
along Broadway to the butcher shop,
stopping in front of a window to view
the seasonal arrival of women's shoes
then stood in a line till my number was called,
beneath sausages on strings that dangled
above pink plastic tubs filled with iced
tongues and hearts, and then I paid three
dollars for a pound of white lard, wrapped
in waxed paper and fastened with twine.
And now I get up from my chair in the kitchen
to check on some pies in the oven
one apple, one cherry, one pumpkin
and a mincemeat made from rendering
the fatand I fix a bandana around my hair,
an apron around my waist, and stand in front of
my altar, the sink, which is full of gray
suds, greasy pans. I scrub and dry and put them
away, reaching up from a wooden stool
split from the trunk of the old sugar maple
that had lived beyond the picture window
until hammering winds pounded it down and
I remember those roots ripping clean from the earth
the same night you hitched a ride home from L.A.
so juiced on meth that you openly wept
and tore at your hands, your feet and your face.
I stayed near and read you the headlines and
told you your name over and over again
while you shook apart in the overstuffed chair,
Labrador Retriever Saves Toddler from Drowning
your name is Grace, yes, your name is Grace,
until the trees stilled themselves and the moon rose again
and the small stars shivered and blinked in the cold.
And I believe my body is some dark secret kitchen
and my mind wants to wander, to leave it behind and
travel far-off to the village of me where a few dreams
still lie waiting as if to be born, where the smell of
nutmeg and quince, brandy and cloveone simple slice
on a blue willow platecan taste like a life,
slightly salty and bitter and sweet.