When mother says the cows are scruffier than usual around the nape,
we wonder. Our neighbor leans over the fence
and peels back the skin of an onion. He says, thick, like the bottom
of my feet. He says, rough, like a cat’s tongue. And we suspect.
But we don’t believe, not until we can’t sleep for all the mice
chewing their way into the walls. We still don’t know until father
pulls out the turkey’s breastbone, purple as an aubergine.
Sure enough, in the honey-fox of morning, we hear
the rattle that means they’re coming. The frost daughters,
who wake white, etched with cold flowers. Girls who
unfold the weather in vanes, shudder it
across tin rooftops. We hear them move through the streets
each footstep a half-minute behind the last, their dream-urgency
unmatched by the fury of the wind. In their wake, the trees unsap.
The roads ice over.
Inside our house, mother binds our mouths with scarves, stacks our
heads in hat after hat, burrows our hands in the yarny jaws of mittens.
Father blows into the coals that are left in the furnace. They tell us,
muffled, in the cloud language of heat leaving a body,
that we are not to look outside. But when they snore, puddled together
on the icy floor, we go to the window anyway. Once, we saw one
snapping an icicle from a tree, eating it in three bites. Another
time, we watched one of them walk across the river, the water hardening
clear to the bed underneath her feet.
Lauren Annette Boulton
Lauren Annette Boulton is currently an MFA candidate studying poetry at Bowling Green State University, where she is staff editor on Mid-American Review. Her work has appeared in or is forthcoming from Bayou, Great Lakes Review, Kenning Journal, Eunoia Review, and Cardinal Sins.
Photo: Oleg Oprsico