A Story We Might Follow

by Joe Wilkins


Snow-suit zipped and buckled,
hat strapped beneath his button chin,

I set my son down a moment,
to strap on my snowshoes—

and stove-legged, star-armed
he toddles off after a turning leaf,

down the road that’s now a sunblown
wing of ice. When I scoop him

into his pack, he goes stony,
little mouth a nut until I lift him

onto my shoulders, into the sky.
We shoe up and slip down drifts,

wend our slow way through oak
and heavy-headed sumac,

now a tight stand of leaning trees—
smooth-barked, pale as apricots—

whose names I do not know.
I lecture anyway on woodrat voles

and wrist-thin rabbit holes,
this byzantine business of claw

nock and hoof pock in the blue
and faultless snow. As cold

as these last nights have been—
every track is purposeful, I know,

but today they seem even more so:
letterings or glyphs, a story

we might follow to some ancient,
quaking, blood-warm source—

or would it be conclusion?
A purling wind rattles sticks,

salt and meltwater at my lips.
It is time to kneel and shrive—

I cannot parse the stories. The hour
might be mine, it might be yours,

it might in the coming cavalcade
of griefs slip like a snowmelt wind

from each of us. I rise, we rise,
and walk another mile, rustle up

a great barred owl, watch carp
dart beneath the river’s lace of ice.



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