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by Julia Klatt Singer
I am skating across the pond
from my grandmother’s cabin to
my grandfather’s. I don’t know
how this came to be, his cabin
east of hers, on the other side of the pond,
just that it is. Nearly a mile by pick-up truck,
half that on foot through the woods, and skating,
only a few moments away.
When I am older I will hear
the story about how she threatened to kill him
with a cast iron frying pan
and instead he grabbed a saw and hammer and
started building the place across the pond.
The ice is clear. I watch
the grassy weeds trapped mid-dance.
Deeper, a fish slow and curling.
Stumps pierce the surface—
this is the flowage, a flooded forest,
and eerie wooded watered world.
He waits for me at the pond’s edge.
Doesn’t wear a jacket, has been chopping
wood. Red plaid shirt, open to reveal his
long underwear, khaki chinos, steel-toed
boots. He smells of whisky, woodsmoke
and water and underneath, something
soft, like moss, like the floss of milkweed.
You had your breakfast?
We both watch the smoke
from my grandmother’s chimney,
like a needle stitch the sky.
I shake my head no.
He grins at me, hugs me close, says,
Girl, you got the bug in you too. Can’t stay
in, now, can you, my outside girl.
He is liquid and languid. His words
move like a slow stream, trip and babble.
He has taught me to fish; to cast, to hook
to net. He doesn’t mind when I say a small prayer
for each one we catch. Nor the dandelions I pick for them
as he guts them.
He presses silver dimes
into my palm and tells me that when my hands
are bigger, the coins will be too, if I can hold
onto them. With thick fingers and his spit
he removed a fishhook from my shoulder
telling me the story of a crow
who swallowed a lure and with the trailing
line wove a net to keep his children safe.
Asked me if I could see it? The net above the trees
his hand on my shoulder, I gazed skyward until
he placed in my hand the hook
that had been under my skin.
After my father’s death I will learn
that this man is not my father’s father.
Like the pond that isn’t really a pond,
I skate across it. Will never know all that is
underneath; only some secrets
like fish, surface. Others stay frozen in place
and time, are seen only through
the translucency of love.