Cottage in the Woods; Washed Out
Cottage in the Woods
I am trying to be a stranger in the city and booked a hotel room with mathematically more square footage than I’m usually owed. It’s just overnight, but I’ve already
bathed three times. There are designers on television gluing hay to the ceiling,
painting fake bricks onto walls. This is how to fix the cracks in the wood. This is how
to make something seem new again. The commercials preach, teach me how to lower cholesterol, cure my rosacea, become a diabetic or not become one. The howling sirens outside explain that somewhere someone is experiencing something and they are terrified. I once lived in a city where police sirens sang me to sleep every night. Now I’d be lucky if police, anyone, could find me. I live in a cottage in the woods. I
live buried under fallen rocks, washed away with melted snow. This is how to fill holes with mud, the patron saint of hailstorms. Of unfathomable harm. This is how to disappear.
In October I make butter
ready for the winter
and we eat only bread
inside crumbling kitchens.
In December the snow
comes to bury us in
and we use forks to shovel
the ashes out of my insides.
The lights from the house
spell out names
of the saints in snow,
and from outside
it looks like I live
in a paper box.
A farmers tan fades
but the white shoulders
never catch up.
Dear St. Anthony,
where do all the colors go?
Elena Tomorowitz received an MFA from Cleveland State University's NEOMFA, and PhD from The University of Southern Mississippi's Center for Writers, both with a focus on poetry. She has work appearing in Guernica, The New Guard, Hayden's Ferry Review, Fugue, The Collagist, and others. She lives in Boise.
“Cottage in the Woods:
I am always looking for the time and space to write, and yet once I have it, the pressure of accomplishing something is high. I live 45 minutes outside of Boise in the mountains and needed a night away, so I booked a room in town with the idea that a change of space would help me to write something. I don’t have a television at home, so I couldn’t help turn on the nice big flat screen TV and watch old episodes of Trading Spaces. I was totally amused with the aesthetic of the 90’s, and yet I wondered if anyone has ever wanted hay glued to their walls?
After a couple hours, and the guilt that I hadn’t written anything, I finally decided to write down what was actually happening. Sometimes the work that feels the least creative at the time has the best results. Yet, when you stop and focus on where you are and what you are doing, rich material will rise out of that. I lived most of my life in the city of Cleveland, so living in the mountains is still a novelty to me. I was able to see my life from a different perspective. My manuscript is focused on the strangeness of rural life, so this poem is a necessary piece to that.
I’ve begun to realize my obsession with butter. It has crept into more than a few poems, but I also find myself feeling anxious if I’m low on butter at home, so I end up buying some on almost every shopping trip. I live in the mountains, about 45 minutes from a regular grocery store, and 20 minutes from a small convenience store, making a quick trip for provisions a hassle. And in my mind, there is so supplement to butter.
When it starts to snow, the anxiety becomes especially acute because the snowfall causes daily tasks to become more difficult. During an average winter, you’ll have around four feet of base snow until March that seems to take a hold of the house and the trees. As it builds up alongside the road, it starts to feel like walls. I often walk up the hill across the road from my house and look down, so everything looks small and insignificant. Along with that, all the colors disappear – from the land, from our faces. Growing up Catholic, we would pray to the patron saint of ‘missing things,’ so I like the idea of testing the variance of things he can track down.”