The Ice Under Me
Simon Wail

The Present

I am living in an old cabin
in the woods,
way up in Alberta.

Cold, even for this time of year.
No electricity,
but a pot-bellied stove,
and a kerosene lantern.
A window,
but no glass -
instead, covered in oiled paper.

A sagging bed.
I thought,
It is enough.

The Construction

Except for the roof,
the whole cabin is made out of logs.
The walls are made out of logs.
The floor is made out of logs (cut in half).
The floor sags toward the middle
as if the basement is trying to
swallow the whole cabin.

There is a door to the basement,
but it is nailed shut.
(Many nails.
Big nails.)

The roof?
The roof is made out of tin (rusted,
                it leaks,
                buckets on floor
                when it rains -
                it rains a lot).

The Past

When I found this place,
I knocked on the door
(made out of logs).
Nobody was home.
Inside, a plaid shirt
was hanging on the back of a chair
that was made out of a stump,
with sticks implanted
to make a backrest.

A pair of (very dirty) coveralls was
hanging on a nail in the wall.

I waited.
Nobody ever came.
So I stayed.

The Past: Later

Two hunters came by.
They didn't care
that I was living there.

I said,
Whose cabin is this?
They said.
They said,
Old man Bolan built it
using a hammer and saw
and his own two hands.

They said,
Last winter,
Old man Bolan heard about a place
called California.
Heard it never snowed there.
Didn't believe it.
Then he was gone.


I walked into town.
Shoplifted a hammer.

Walked back out here.
Pulled out the nails that held
the basement door shut.
(Many nails.
Big nails.)

Door fell off.
(Made of logs.)

Rotted wooden stairs
leading down.
Three steps, then . . .

I realized,
The entire basement is filled with ice.

Made a torch out of a stick.
Flickering light.
Went down the three steps.
Leaned down.
Touched the ice.
Ice was dry,
not wet,
like you'd think.
I brought the torch close.
I thought,
This ice is
at least
six feet deep,
and almost clear,
like a shimmery,

Through the ice,
I could see
shelves with jars
lined up.
A bucket
on its side.
Clothes hanging on hooks.
Rubber boots
against the wall.
An old man's face
looking up at me.

Hard to be sure.
Flickering light.
Torch went out.

The Future

I will leave

Copyright 2011. All rights reserved.

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