Excerpt from The Ghost Trio by Linda Bierds
The Winter: 1748
A little satin like wind at the door.
My mother slips past in great side hoops,
arced like the ears of elephants
on her head a goat-white wig,
on her cheek a dollop of mole.
She has entered the evening, and I
her room with its hazel light.
Where her wig had rested is a leather head,
a stand, perfect in its shadow but
carrying in fact, where the face should be,
a swath of door. It cups
in its skull-curved closure
clay hair stays, a pouch of wig talc
that snows at random and lends to the table
a neck-shaped ring.
When I reach inside I am frosted,
my hand like a pond in winter, pale
fingers below of leaves or carp.
I have studied a painting from Holland,
where a village adjourns to a frozen river.
Skaters and sleighs, of course, but
ale tents, the musk of chestnuts,
someone thick on a chair with a lap robe.
I do not know what becomes of them
when the flow revisits. Or why
they have moved from their warm hearthstones
to settle there—except that one step
is a method of gliding,
the self for those moments
weightless and preened as my leather companion.
And I do not know if the fish there
have frozen, or wait in some stasis
like flowers. Perhaps they are stunned
by the strange heaven—dotted with
boot soles and chair legs
and are slumped on the mud-rich bottom—
waiting through time for a kind of shimmer,
an image perhaps, something
known and familiar, something
rushing above in their own likeness,
silver and blade-thin at the rim of the world.
Linda Bierds was raised in Anchorage, Alaska. She teaches English and Creative Writing at the University of Washington. Her books include First Hand, The Seconds, and The Profile Makers.