As soon as the ice would hold us
My sisters and I went to our cousins’ farm everyday after school,
Stumbled over lumpy earth and stubs of cornstalks under the snow,
Or slip-slid across the slick gravel road, polished winter white.
Chip kept the pond shoveled clear
Leaning against the curves, a crest of snow curling in front of him
Black skates crossing, right, left, right.
He egged us into playing hockey in our figure skates.
He was always faster, always better, always convinced us
— all the kids—
To play against him one more time.
The pinch of skates
Laced tight around my ankles;
Cold toes, thick socks.
The lone yard light a boundary of brightness.
The pastures dark, cows warm in the barn.
I circled that pond a hundred-thousand times,
It was like swimming, like flying.
I opened my jacket, unraveled my scarf
Let the fresh, cold air in.
When it had been dark for hours
We’d change back into boots,
Toes stiff and numb.
The world no longer slid beneath me
And every step was halting, short.
I remember the swish of our snow pants as we walked back home,
The pink of our faces
The dark of the crossing
The squares of yellow light in our yard
The heat of fire and food.
Every time I skate,
I am there again.
(c) Rose Arrowsmith DeCoux, 2016