House of Breath
By Ken Gerner
Over the Coast Range, silver horns of cloud
darken to rose. The fire is set. The crackle
and pop of pitch and kindling burn into logs.
I split ribs for dinner, aware of thin muscles
that hold the dark cave of breath. This house
welcomes as winter approaches. There were others.
One of logs in a valley in the Rockies, where
I was raised rough-housing with my father
and brothers. The years winter ran late,
my father's hands cracked from the waters
of calving and wind. Later, that wind
out of the Gulf of Alaska bowed the tops
of second-growth on the peninsula's tip. Inside,
warm, I watched chunks of turnips and spuds
fall into the pot of stew as I talked with
friends in their house of poetry and printing,
of what it is to love something, anything.
Bourbon has never been so smooth. Searing ribs.
Soon my love will return to enter this warmth,
the cascade of smells and she will smile at the half-
empty bottle. I will sit as this house asks her
what she remembers, watch as her children dance
across her eyes. The warmth of other fires
will become her arms curled under her breasts,
around the rise and fall of her breathing.
And then one of us will say something silly,
like 'how's your ass' and laugh at the infinity
of intention and the simple charms we use
to enter the silence. Outside, the wind
will come with its dreams of snow. We will
be shadows crossing shafts of yellow light.
Fat from the ribs will shine our cheeks as
we eat by the fire and coals will glow
as we make love beside bowls of bones and
light echoing in glasses empty of wine.
In the morning, I will leave the warmth of bed.
There will be frost and the cold floor.
The rags of alder leaves droop as I step outside
to sit with the morning, to watch smoke drift
from houses in this hollow. Cold and empty,
my lungs will fill and my ribs shudder around
and hold to the fine precision of breath.
Still not much to say. But I was out of bed before 10:30 this morning, so am making progress! Again my mother was a lifesaver with carpool schlepping, since Tuesday is usually my crazy Hebrew school driving day, and she fed the kids dinner as well. As a result of this I got all my work done (one article involved transcribing an entertaining Patrick Stewart interview, anyway) and put stamps and airmail labels on all my overseas holiday cards. I also read nearly to the end of The Historian, which I am loving so much I don't want to finish.
Since hubby came home with March of the Penguins on DVD, we watched all the extras and most of the film, then watched Commander in Chief (which, oh, please, Steven Bochco, needs stronger scripts, not a larger "family" at the White House and definitely not Mark-Paul Gosselaar trying to be Bradley Whitford). I did not watch the news because I have no energy for real world crises, and I stopped reading my flist six people in because I definitely have no energy for fannish crisis. I'm still on soup, peanut butter toast and Jello but this is really not a bad way to live at the moment.
At the end of the path down the hill at Scott's Run, shining through the trees, the Potomac River.