After six straight days of snow,
she is ready for a reason to leave,
any reason. So she gathers her currants,
her walnuts, her heavy wheat flour
and bakes loaf after brown loaf
from that sharp need. Now the things
you know: the covered basket, the cloak,
the path almost erased by white.
Her prints the only ones. Her breath
in its hanging clouds. Berries
jewel the bracken, beautiful poison.
Into this stillness who’d bring a stranger?
With what ardor will he rend her quiet?
A cardinal lands to appraise
the encounter, then flashes wings
in bright haste. Abandoned, disturbed,
she finds what’s left of the path. Shakes
new snow from her basket, fans a coal
in her chest. Starts again. Somewhere ahead,
a house leaks its thread of gray smoke.