Hard Winter; To Frame
By: Kate Adams
In the woodshed, splitting up their winter
wood, he stops a moment, lays the axe
aside. A ﬁlm of sweat forms on his chin,
drips down. His youngest son comes in and asks
when Mama’s coming home? Oh, not again.
He squats, looks in the eyes he loves. He lacks
the words could reach the boy, one of those men
speaks mainly with his hands. Your mama’s passed
away, he says; your mama’s gone. Those eyes
ﬁll once again with anger, disbelief.
So sorry, son. However hard he tries,
his axe can’t seem to penetrate— A grief
too great, hard winter closing in. He hugs
the boy, last remnant of the grave he’s dug.
He lights another cigarette, attacks
the photographs. He’s come up with a plan:
ﬁrst, dispose of all these damned distracting
duplicates. Jesus, he needs a fan
in here, it’s hot. And then he’ll simply stack
them year by year, progress—from boy to man.
Then, he can look for—jewels in black and white,
that he might want to keep—to frame? His hands
are sweating now. How did she take the heat?
How did she take so many photos, keep
on going, even when the cancer came?
Watch her boy become a man. He sucks
his cigarette. Recalls those nights she’d tuck
him in, quick kiss . . . Ah, that’s a memory to frame.
Kate Adams is a writer living in Mountain View, California.Previous work has appeared in Centennial Review, Zzyzzyva, and the Sand Hill Review. She has won awards from the Massachusetts Artists’ Foundation, in poetry and in ﬁction. Kate enjoys the technical and artistic challenges of writing in sonnet forms.Poets of inﬂuence include Matthew Arnold, Wallace Stevens, and Gjertrude Schnackenberg.
Behind the Scenes:
These two poems are part of a series of vignettes I wrote over the course of the pandemic, seeking images outside of current political or social concerns. The muse was kind enough to allow me to write the way we drive at night: seeing only a few feet ahead. These poems, and their characters—unknown to me before they showed up here—came to me line by line and rhyme by rhyme, strobe-light poems that open and shut in a ﬂash of sight—and insight.