Martha M. Vertreace
The snow stuns the sky into quiet
only the lake understands,
restive beyond the gray stone breakwater.
Across the street, my neighbor knows
a green hope weaves a wooden trellis
over a fresh-powdered walk, his jacket,
a plaid patch on the shed doorknob.
His brown daughter sprouts bud breasts
under her sweatshirt; twirls tendrils
of dark braids, then steadies the plank
with both hands as her eyes follow
his hammer's arc.
In her, I am twelve
again, New Year's Eve: my mother and I
sleep early—she, in their pink room,
I where my brother and I share bunks,
walls not repainted pre-war blue
when we move in, little floor space
for second-hand chairs, desks,
chests-of-drawers. Weak springs
give as sheets twine her ankles.
Pillowing in premature wishes,
we fear silver bullets
in my neighbor's pistol, his bayou way
of killing earthbound ghosts
when the old year dies,
and so it goes.
The last slats nailed in place,
the girl trails her father into a house
aflame with saffron light of melting snow,
holy surprise getting past the silence.
A nighthawk perches sideways in the ash
like a bundle of wet leaves, unfurls
her wings, then lifts into air
I thought too cold for flight.