© 2016-2018 by Catherine J. Stewart
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Lesley Kenny.

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,

snowshoes crushing

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.