Warmth in Autumn

By Lori Howe

I slide my boat into the lake
as the storm comes in,
thunder cracking to the west
of the mountains, the light a strange
pearl
caught between water
and thick-bellied clouds.
It is all sound and deep gray,
a muted shifting,
until the wind comes in,
and
I realize that the galoshes I bought
for a dollar,
too-big and black, someone’s grandfather’s
fishing boots,
have slashes across the shins
that invite the lake into the hollows
holding my small feet.

I imagine the old man
who wore these boots,
standing, as I am now, shin-deep in a lake,
and I wonder if he still lives,
if he remembers what cut these boots
to uselessness,
not even worth the yard sale dimes
I gave for them, not now,
with the cold, clean water
cupping my instep
like the hand of a ghost.

The surface of the water
is a muted silver, like pewter,
many-folded and elegant,
quiet as elephants.
The palm of each wave
catches the small light
and glows, round and moss-green–
a brief handful
of treasure.

The storm pulls its string tight,
gathering in the sky.
Even the brightest stands of aspens,
still vibrant in their draws and coves,
seem to huddle together
like horses
as the cold comes in.

My wet feet and hands
sing with chill.
Summer is gone,
and even brief sticks of sunlight
Speak falsely of warmth
in this cracked granite bowl
above the plains.

Today, warmth is both more and less
than heat,
more than a green boat in small sunlight,
than waves and the quiet of wind and water,
less than the glad scents of pine needles
and granite.
It is the fire of my father’s blood
beneath my skin
as he lies dying
a thousand miles away—
his heart a stopped clock
that cannot be rewound.

Today,
warmth is heavy,
and I wanted to put it down
like a suitcase,
store it in a cupboard
like a sack of meal,
walk away from it
as though it were an old sweater
I could forget on a train.

All the curtains of rain
have blown out across the water,
the sky lifts,
and evening wanders in.
I will stow my boat and go home
in this blue hour,
light a fire,
sweep the floor,
and call my father,
and when he asks about my day,
I’ll tell him I went fishing
so we can find something to say.
“I didn’t catch my limit,”
I’ll tell him,
and we will make empty plans
to put our boats in,
come spring.

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Categories: Issue 5, Poetry | 1 Comment

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One thought on “Warmth in Autumn

  1. Beautiful!

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