We were told to take anything we wanted
from the chattel left behind by a disappeared
family who had rented my aunt’s farmhouse.
They left in a hurry, unable to pay the month’s due,
unwilling to beg my hard-nosed aunt for more time.
The man had killed a son who stepped in to fetch
a can blasted by buckshot during a drunken round
of target shooting; the wife had no teeth and stank.
Good riddance was Aunt Flo’s assessment,
but I felt sorry for them—especially the girl whose
tiny bedroom reeked of wet plaster, water-yellowed
wallpaper flayed like skin. A tattered quilt of calico
yo-yos promised pitiable warmth to the room.
There, atop a listing chest of drawers, I saw my prize:
a cheap snow globe filled with water and wonder.
Inside, two skaters: a top-hatted man in long,
buttoned coat and a woman, clad in fur-trimmed
finery: coat, bonnet, muff. Shaken, the globe
filled with a whirling squall from which the skaters
slowly emerged, the man’s sure hand still guiding
his companion through a circle of frosted eternity.
Raised in a house of clamor and clout, I longed
to glide in that world of gentle hands and hushed lips,
to meet the absent girl there in silence,
away from the fury that shook both our worlds.
I took the snow globe with me and coddled its fragility
for years, until I forgot how.