ASH

Vernon, Alabama, 1961


I think about that winter in Vernon
when it was just the two of us and cold,


and December sifted snow over the red
dough boards of yard and roof,


and you made the terrible pilgrimage each night
in bare feet from bed to stove, to stoke its embers


and add the meager coal. Afterwards, you shivered
across the linoleum, across its worn and cinder-


bitten roses. Do I remember you leaping
from petal to petal, your sallow feet shining


like beacons? I don't know. It was long
ago. But I know you climbed beneath


the sheets and "opening your shirt"
placed my hands against your belly.


We lay banked beside each other, unmoving,
asleep in a house as slanted as a cant of snow,


where we were Websta's gal and her baby girl,
where we waited for the colored serviceman


who belonged to us, until waiting
was also winter, a weather we knew.


How lovely we were then, the two of us,
huddled in that darkness, surrounded


by the dull glowing of red roses
and comet-cinders, cast out and briefly bright.