Before leaving, I shovel a sidewalk for the first time to make the foreboding ache more real.
To walk downtown, me and the girls pick our legs up high at the knee, try not to step in anything deeper than our boots. You can’t always tell how bad something will be.
This winter is work, all brown grey from the thaw and freeze, thaw and freeze. Where I grew up, winter glowed a more beautiful grey. Where I grew up, winter was a corn pudding with Hatch chilies baking. Vegetables roasting in olive oil on the bottom rack for hours. In the biggest stockpot, curried lentil soup bubbled, a wooden spoon rested nearby, warm from each of our hands having a stir. The mountains were always purple, topped with thick snow. We were not raised on cold. If Seattle dared to have a white December, it only lasted four days and everyone stopped. We were always at home for the snow. The hill I lived on was too dangerous for sledding, so we used the driveway, sloughing into the street on red and blue disks. Hands ached for mugs when we were worn out. Once, when I was still very small, the snow started at night. In our snowsuits, we bounced into the dark backyard, watching it soften. Sometimes my mom would walk downtown to mail the Christmas cards when the roads were bad, leaving the lentils simmering on the stovetop. A fire in the fireplace, us in front of it. From the kitchen window, I could watch a spotted towhee hopping through the frost. Robins sinking into their feathers for warmth. Where I grew up, winter was so warm.
Here, in this winter, nothing is right. I spend a morning making lentil soup, and he will not try it. Spits hateful words about it while I sit and listen, lifting the steaming spoon to my own mouth. Bite after bite. I keep buying rings, and here I am in this warm store, my boots melting all over the floor, doing it again. I give them all to myself.
Clair Dunlap grew up just outside Seattle, Washington, where she started writing poems at the age of six. She currently resides in the Midwest and spends her free time missing the ocean, making vegan cheese, and drinking tea. Her work can be found, or is upcoming, in Whale Road Review, Souvenir, Vagabond City, Persephone’s Daughters, Up the Staircase Quarterly, the Harpoon Review and more. Her first collection of poetry is forthcoming.