Beside the stove in the kitchen, tears erased with a hiss
And her hair fell forward to hide it. Bread rising still and
Outside the clean, wet apron bent over the wire in the wind
The plains threw like a straight ,cold knife
That named its edge by the divisions it made
between mother and child or father
And daughter or wife and husband
How she needed even this domestic miracle, the bread
Rising, to remind her to lift her head
The apron slaps. The white sun marking lines on the vinegar scrubbed
Floors where she'd discovered new creaks beside the old ones,
Those she'd memorized so as not to wake them when passing through the hall.
Do you see the soul thin woman in her white bleached night
Gown working her feet silently toe to heal down the worn wood
To the back door where she'd stretch moon-full
And stealing tomorrow's rest for a moment late at night
In the biting snow that seemed to wash her clear inside?
She thought the snow looked like angels' tears
But they might not have been.
She wanted to talk to them about
Doing God's work. She sometimes
Wasn't sure if she'd gotten it right.
And the apron lifts itself from the line, catches
above in the pin oak still wearing
leaves through the winter that won't be gathered
until she's sure they've fallen undressed. Only
then will she go to them scratching her name
hard into the bark with the bread knife after she's raked
every crumbling heart she discarded into a pile she can burn
warming herself against another winter like the one
she didn't know she'd live through.
But she probably did, didn't she.