The Ice-Fishers

As a little girl I watched the men

huddled in a circle on the ice;

even from far away, on the bank,

I saw them pull something struggling

and silver out of that black hole:

in the lake’s smooth wash of white

that break seemed

a violation.

 

When I skied across the lake

I tried to keep my pole strokes wide,

not talking, so I could hear the cracks—

the first signal

of that shattering.

 

Shoveling off snow to ice-skate,

I always half-hoped, half feared

what I’d find, perfectly preserved,

beneath that thick layer

of rough-cut glass.

 

I think of you this winter in California,

where even the puddles never freeze;

I find the thought of ice, like all

Alaskan recollections, melts away

with distance.

 

But I can’t cut deeper into memory

through the cold membrane of the years,

pull it, resisting, up—I’d fall

through, I’d be trapped

underneath.

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