In January blizzards, with the wind
out of the northwest for days bringing
poles down on the County Line Road,
he’d load the wood stove with slabs,
thin dry spruce, sit in the dark, deaf
to the constant gunfire crack of resin,
deaf to the rush and rattle of sparks up
the stovepipe, blind to its cherrying tin,
hands cupped around strong tea laced
with old black rum while flakes of ash
fell slowly down from the cigarette in
his mouth to float on the tea, dim stars.
He’d stare down into the mug as one
might stare into a dry well’s dark mouth
in August, or up into the storm of stars
whitening the cold black skies of autumn
and never say what he saw in the tea,
whether it was the trails of tracer shells
arcing across the night skies of Korea
or the glow of a cigarette in a foxhole.
He’d load more slabs in the stove, light
another smoke, sip the cooling tea, move
the rum bottle a little closer, wait for
the storm to stop, or the house to burn.