The rolled towels jammed in the sills
covered sooty windows caked smoky gray
from the coal-fed chimney breath
of our buckeye wood stove. The night
before, my uncle fed it the last
few shovels of indigo nuggets as I
wedged the sun-faded cotton threads
between wood grain and December airspace—
my breath, thick against the pane,
tasted each remembered winter inside.
I saw orange groves past the spotted
clumps of frozen grass blades spread
up through the rusted bones of tractors.
Just beyond the field, littered with chopped
stalks of tobacco from our last harvest,
I tasted the citrus air of a place that
I knew to be better than where I stood.
We moved boxes hastily into the porous
bed liner of our farm truck the next morning;
stacking each by weight and intrinsic value
into rectangular dimensions. Lesser trinkets
of memory rested on the apex of our load
in case my uncle whipped a curve too fiercely
for them to cling to our leaving. Too many
I left stacked near the smoldering ash heap,
cooling on a morning for forgetting. How
often I see the transitory gape of a forced
smile as my mother smoothed my uncombed hair.
Each space left ajar from our frantic exit
froze to me with subtle conviction. I latched
the flap of wood closed whose walls feel like
a succession of doorways to me now. Sometimes
swinging open accidentally. Always closing.
We drove one mile across popping gravel,
leaving the frozen sun fabric in the space
where the air of my state hovered. The
distant groves remained beyond the mount curve
of bare branch willows beside the sluice stream
and twisted vein of apple trees in withdrawn
budding as we silenced our engine. Nothing
else to place as we unloaded our cardboard
squares into ice pane glass and tin once more.