Inarticulate, 1908
By Kathleen Ernst

He never said he loved her,
but he dug a ‘tater hole by the hearth
so she wouldn’t have to go outside.
He split extra rails, and stuffed hay in the deep fence angles
to catch snow before it drifted across her path
when she fetched eggs in bitter dawns.
He ordered a cookstove at the valley store
and groaned it up the mountain
with a stout sled and team of oxen,
and he built a fire at four each morning
so the kitchen was warm when she started breakfast.

She rarely met his gaze,
but she made twelve-layer apple stack cakes
because his eyes crinkled at the corners when he ate them.
She scrubbed sand into the wide popple boards
with a break-back broom so the floor
stretched smooth white beneath his boots.
She chopped her own kindling so he’d have time
to play his fiddle on summer evenings.
She saved flour sacks’ shiny blue liners
and papered the wall by his pillow
so the firelight glowed pretty as he drifted to sleep.

They never rose above their raisin’ with fancy talk,
just pondered the night-dazzled skies and knew
she had captured the stars in her apron,
he the moon in his sickle-scarred hands.


© 2006 Kathleen Ernst, LLC.