THE SHORTEST DAYS

cornfields

“October black birds and cornfields” by Linda Storm

Because I am so happy for you and the life you made
beautiful from the scraps of what we were given. What

we thought were scraps but maybe was our precious
inheritance. I can see it, the guy on Antiques Roadshow —

the blond twin — saying, “This is a national
treasure,” and opening a forged metal box of red maple

leaves, tart apples, snow sky, the calls of Canada geese
winging in formation. Getting the hell out of there. That place

couldn’t hold you. Not even stitched in with my love
for the you who you were then, before you knew yourself. The love

I never said out loud. Words bitter in our mouths, cheap
beer, shadows long over cornfields, squinting into the middle

distance for the thing that hadn’t arrived yet. Someone
who would get you — the you who you were becoming — someone

who would blanket you with understanding. My love for you
was cold comfort. Early frost, raw hands stuffed in pockets

instead of reaching out for your hands. Still, I leaned
toward you. The sunny window of you, the southern exposure,

the narrative arc of geese, the migratory patterns
of birds, of small-town escapees, of lost kids with treasure

maps folded so tight the creases mark new routes to
who knows where. To where we were headed, where someone

waited with warm knowing, with a smile like a Homecoming
bonfire. You put away the box of red leaves

and snow skies, maybe on a shelf for safe keeping. Maybe
you’ll come back to it to remember, sometime,

the pang of winter on the air, breath a frozen cloud, cold
hands deep in pockets, the you still shivering back there

but kindling a fire, too. Even then, even from the scraps
you were given. Forging yourself new, you beautiful queen.

(With thanks and love and apologies to Michael Nolan because I borrowed heavily from his photo caption for the inspiration and, frankly, the heart, of this poem.)

 

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