I splash my face, a woman somewhere kindles
her fire. One man is forty stories high, cleaning
his gun, another rakes someone’s leaves.
My copper beech releases a dozen more curled
claws, A.’s body hasn’t yet made up its mind.
Snow falls on the rug the cat shat on and Della’s
getting faster on her crutches. She wants to know
if things smell in my dreams; I’m glad three aromas
are gone from this house. Winter is here with its own
stone, the back steps will stay broken teeth
until spring. I forgot to call Dad about Mom
and Della’s out in the dark writing “Kyle” in the snow
on the rug. She tells me the story of G.’s best friend,
dead from a hockey puck; I tell her how L.’s daughter
cut herself last night. The radio says the tigers
are holding an olive branch and the pilots threaten
to walk. Two women I love are exactly the same amount
pregnant. I refuse to think about money, wonder whether
the pumpkins are frozen to the ledge, how the morning moon
hung pale and broad over the chicken house, how
I’ll get through next week. They announced a cease fire
to get polio vaccine to the villages—buying
boy soldiers on both sides two more days of life.
I dry my face and let the cat out of the cellar.

© 2001 Ellen Watson
from Ladder Music (Alice James Books, 2001)

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