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Girl, Frozen

ISSUE:  Spring 2009

Would it help you to know your name fell away from her
in her life’s last minute like flour
from arthritic hands, like silt blown free
of a river’s driftwood? That she forgot she ever saw you

skipping across your creek, three steps
across three stones? She could only remember: snow
and urgency, her own light leaping
across near-frozen water. She flew to warn her husband’s family
of those revenuers descending from the distant city,

dark-suited prohibitionists
coming to take the liquor, to burn the stills,
to mock those moonshining hillbillies
they were coming to rob. They could only picture long beards

and Civil War shotguns, imagine the smell
of all those dark mouths with their crooked teeth. Like you,
they could not imagine one snowflake
landing on the braid of a lithe and fearful girl,
frozen white thumbprint disappearing

into the black rope of her hair. They could not
will themselves to feel anything for the dozen children
she would soon rear. She was pregnant
with the news of their coming, her warning. Her footprints

disappeared under the snow. You wonder what else
might have happened: if like you, she might have
married for sex, to experience that wet
mystery. Mother who poured turpentine
on the snakebitten face of her cow, girl
who cried when the waitress called her a boy,

woman who cut her hair just that once: she will cease
to be any of these. Shortly, you will stop
wondering about the oldest strand
on her head. You may only remember some line describing her locks:

yellow as dried bones. She could not
have known her lust would lead to you—
your name—slipping away from her like a lace
of breath into the frozen dusk. Yes, every memory
of her, too, is some intricacy you’ve forgotten

how to stitch, some decoration, a doily. Soon,
you’ll finger the needlework
too often, and the limp threads will dissolve
in your hands, falling as snow falls
into the narrow tracks of a girl.


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