close up of curled leaves on twigs

who once lived in this house

“Josh!” I hear Dad call even before he’s standing. “Up!” he says, though he might have called, Josh! then, Fire! meaning, tend to the coal-stove. Up means move, boy.

Downstairs he’s at the cooker rattling the gate, feeding in splits, free hand working a suspender. I bang into my boots a little loud but I don’t care.

“You’ll wake the dead,” he says searching the cupboard.

“Maybe you can join ‘em,” I say, up the sleeve of my mack.

“What’s that?”

— ears like a fox. “Said I’m going to feed the animals,” I say. Then throw my weight into the door, cracking the seal of frost. We call it morning because we’re up, but it’s not, it’s night. Outside, the cold is shocking, though I like it for the reason I can prove myself against it. Worse it gets the more I take. Love the metal taste of it, how my eyes water and tears freeze, how the cold is like something down inside my shirt, touching me. The moon is high in the west, and bright, lighting the barn like day, with clouds reflected in the window glass like a puddle frozen on the wall. Shadows are sharp and hard. I walk the pitch of the roof projected on the snow, then exit out the chimney like smoke.

photo and poem ©2019 by John Greenslade Skewes

John Greenslade Skewes is a writer and photographer who lives in the Seacoast Region of New Hampshire. He can be found most afternoons, camera in hand, walking the wetlands and forests with his spotted dog. Works have appeared in The American Journal of Poetry, Into the Void, Ariel Chart, and The Molotov Cocktail.

3 Comments on “Josh

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