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Ski Tracks

ISSUE:  Autumn 1992

He left the trail here
heading for home as the crow flies—
ski tracks, one melody, one harmony,
and his meandering husky.
Straight through the brown ferns
past the sumac’s red seed heads—
a little art nouveau
in the otherwise minimalist landscape.

Is this silence or exhaustion?
His skis lean against the cabin as snowflakes
drift through the porch light like moths.
This man is thin as a ski.
He boils fish and potatoes
that rise up as he stirs them
as if it is they who will be fed.

The stars look down hungrily
from their overpopulated sky
and sparks fly up from the chimney
equally unsatisfied.


He built this cabin when his father died.
With the insurance money.
His wife left him when he quit his job.
“Don’t keep in touch.”
The gray in his beard
grew to resemble animal markings.
He thought of the woods as perfectly indifferent
then realized they were slightly irritated:
he was worse than a moose but
better than army worms.

Once he snowshoed out to the bar
and spent the night in an upstairs room.
He kept waking up. A car.
A barking dog. Even the phone lines
made a kind of whine. And that smell
of beer on the short napped carpet.
And the floor that gave a little with each step.

Sometime in the night the weather changed.
Heavy clouds, but warmer. Rotting snow.
Yes, it was like something once alive
once swirling like a skirt.

Now his snowshoes sank into the snow’s corpse.
He tried to think of it as the opposite of death
the water released like the genie out of the bottle.
He felt the clouds sinking.
It was warm enough to rain.


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