All day clearing and stacking the woodpile.
Dragging the cold limbs. Packing the wedge
in the fault-lines and sap knots. Bringing
the sledge-hammer down. No job now. Alone
with the poplars and bald eagles drifting.
Living on savings and generous help from
the old couple further up shore. Sundays they
drive me to town to get groceries, sit for
the church service, make a few calls to my
friends. When the sun gets low on the pine trees
behind me, I walk down the deer-trail tracks
to the shore. Nothing but empty horizons
of white. The wide lake frozen. Mist rising up
from the cedar-tree swamp near the creek.
I walk on the face of it, circling back to the ice-
mounds surrounding the spring. The water
runs red from the iron inside it. Colors
the border-ice orange. Patches of weird moss.
Icicles growing like mutated fingers of rust.
I fill up the milk-gallon jugs at the drainpipe,
stack them in rows on the little wood bridge.
Dry off my fingers. Blow on my bare hands.
The air is so clear I can hear my own voice
coming back from the opposite shore. Two
miles distance. A few little fish-huts and dock
posts emerging from wind-driven furrows
of snow. I lecture to no one. Laugh at the fact
of myself in the silence. The wind dies around me.
The stars start to stab out discernible dots
in the glow. Faintly, the sound of a pileated
woodpecker knocking its head on a limb.
I know he is probably starving, listening hard
to the bugs in the dead wood. I wait for the
moonlight, pick up the milk jugs and follow
my tracks to the warm empty cabin alone.
Copyright © Kai Carlson-Wee, 2015.
Used with the permission of the author on behalf of Poetry Northwest.