Pan of Ice

posted Nov 29, 2011

for Phineas Walcott Cook, 1819-1900

I roll tobacco into tight balls, stuff
them down the throat of a sick ox. One shot
to rouse her before the wagons head out.

The ox snorts and stamps, kicks to tell me enough.
The tobacco balls land in dirt.  My hand gets caught,
comes out slick with blood and throat slime. I shout

for Anne, but she’s tipped a kettle. That’s twice
she’s scalded her foot.  Bandaged, beat, we wait
to sleep until our fire is embers, a glowing mound.

Anne dreams she’s standing in a pan of ice.
She’s wearing a pair of beautiful skates.
In the morning, the ox is cold on the ground.

Deja Earley's poems and essays have previously appeared in such journals as Arts and Letters, Borderlands, and Diagram, and several of her poems were recently included in The Southern Poetry Anthology, Volume II. She has received honors in several writing contests, including first place in Sunstone's 2011 Eugene England Memorial Personal Essay Contest, the 2008 Joan Johnson Award in poetry, and the 20042005 Parley A. and Ruth J. Christensen Award. She completed a PhD in English and Creative Writing at the University of Southern Mississippi, then moved to the Boston area, where she works as a development editor at Bedford/St Martin's Press.

We’ve published two more poems by Earley: “Let Death Come Upon Us Planting Our Cabbages” and “Shirley Temple Grooms Ivan Pavlov.”