Ice House


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.


Diana Whitney’s first book, Wanting It (Harbor Mountain Press 2014), became an indie bestseller and won the Rubery Book Award in poetry. Her poems and essays have appeared in The Boston Globe, Crab Orchard Review, The Rumpus, Salon, The Washington Post, Yellow Chair Review, and many more. She is the poetry critic for the San Francisco Chronicle and currently finishing a memoir-in-essays about motherhood and sexuality.