The following poem was published in the December 2016 newsletter of the League of Canadian Poets.
The Trapper’s Wife
She leans her forehead
against the window
breath fogging glass.
Steel traps rattling, he strides
away from the house,
mesh prints into snow,
cutting into field
and frozen slough
before he dissolves like a mirage
of willow wood.
In two nights the cold
swirls frozen on the window,
and, heavy at the foot of her bed,
stone loses all memory of oven.
Four days in and the bucket clunks
on the ice sheet in the shallow well.
She makes water from snow, no alchemist’s secret,
just the woodstove and a battered bucket
that rocks on the hot cast iron.
By dark the coyotes circle the cabin,
call. High pitch shudders
down her spine, curves
around the small of her back,
and settles in her womb.
By day she’s searching the hills for smoke,
white wisps threading to the sky,
but there is no lightness rising from the dark
forests, only the silence of trees.
The seventh night black turns white.
For two days the snow erases her
as she walks
to the outhouse
to the barn
to the field.
Ten days now and the cow cloisters in the barn
summer in its hay-scented breath
steam in the milk her frigid hands
coax from its udder.
She leans her head against its side
and the calf’s heartbeat taps on her forehead.
She returns often to the barn,
stands still shushed
for the faint rustle of breath
like white silk skirts at a wedding.