Brick Hotel

My father chops with his axe and the leaves fall off the trees.
It’s nineteen forty-three.
He’s splitting wood for the winter.
His gun leans behind the door,
beside his goose-greased workboots.
Smoke comes out of the metal chimney.

At night I sleep in a bunk bed.
The waves stroke the lake.
In the mornings it is so cold
we can see our breath
and the ice on the rocky shore.
My mother rakes the ashes
out from under the oven.

This is comfort and safety,
the sound of chopping in the empty forest,
the smell of smoke.
It’s nineteen forty-three.
After it rains we have a bonfire.
The children dance around it,
singing about the war
which is happening elsewhere.
What has become of them, those words
that once shone with such
glossy innocence?
I rolled them in my mouth like marbles,
they tasted pure:
smoke, gun, boots, oven.
The fire. The scattered ashes. The winter forest.

I sit in a pink room;
the chest of drawers
has antique man-bored wormholes.
Isn’t there enough of the past
without making more?

It’s nineteen forty-three.
It’s nineteen ninety-four,
It’s two thousand fourteen,
I can hear the sound of the chopping.
It’s because of the ocean,
it’s because of the war
which won’t stay under the waves and leaves.
The carpet smells of ashes.

This is the pink hotel
where everything recurs
and nothing is elsewhere.

–Margaret Atwoood

1999 PARADOR Reserva Red Wine Cab/sang/temp Napa Valley 14.2

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