Hazard lights in the breakdown lane—
three semis stuck halfway up Searsburg Mountain,
the state trooper bending to set flares
on treacherous ice roads winding slow
East/West over the ridge
where my mother is re-learning how to knit.
Her marled stitches furl into a ribbon,
loose scarf for an imaginary child, another
project she’ll never finish. She carries
the soft cowl from room to room,
couch to chair, with the mystery
she’s been reading since August.
Why aren’t the windmills turning when we pass?
They razed the ridgeline but those giant blades
stand sentinel above the riddled snowpack.
Tension is just trapped energy, the teacher says,
rubbing the knot at the nape of my neck.
I want to believe her, I breathe
into the interstices, imagine
I’d be different with a different man,
would soften like a rag beneath his grip.
Out on the Meadows, the fishermen arrive
in darkness, live bait in lidded buckets.
They light the woodstove in the metal house,
bore a hole through the ice
revealing the netherworld: murky reeds
and black mud, the promise
of slow perch in cold water.
They hook a minnow below the dorsal fin
and it swims around the hole all day
tethered to an invisible line, battering
the smooth walls. The only way out
is to be consumed, the only freedom a mouth
darker and colder than this frozen river.