Elise Gregory’s chapbook “Domestic Spiral” was published in 2012; her poems have been published by various literary journals including Redactions, Verse Wisconsin, Stoneboat, and Hubbub. She lives in western Wisconsin where she tends gardens, sheep, goats, chickens, three human children, and one spouse.
The End of Smoke Days
End of maul and axe days,
bark beneath our windows. The cold
close of cracked wooden hearts on subzero days.
My husband’s chainsaw affair–
the sharp, tidy cuts I could never craft–
finishes with incoming
seed packets. The disfigured
forest awaits his care.
I’ll miss elm’s heft in my arms
the bundles I bore downstairs
while the baby slept. The clank of boughs
tumble to the concrete floor.
Wood, the visceral warmth of our winters.
And yet, we can’t always endure
this work. There’s that snag
of aging backs.
Wood smoke, a hot whisper
of our briefness.
The solid, hundred year oak
quickly catches fire, through
our stack like a thought.
Its ash cooled by the stratosphere
before sifting back.
While spooning yogurt in a dish,
I think the sun blinks out.
I catch the counter’s edge,
for there’ll be no spring this year:
No thumb of bean sprouts, no thrum
of wings nor small hearts, no rumble of thunder,
no anklets of corn swaying across fields.
Frozen blueberries I’d picked last summer
clatter into the sink. I pluck them up–
the rumor of September–but oh the enduring chill.
A child is locked in the closet.
My young son whispers about
a train perpetually arriving,
“Train’s a’coming, train’s a comin.’ Train’s coming’ down the track.”
Engine shrills in the snow-covered hills.
We are forlorn in its path.