(a golden shovel) Hold fast to dreams For if dreams die Life is a broken-winged bird That cannot fly. Hold fast to dreams For when dreams go Life is a barren field Frozen with snow. -- Langston Hughes, “Dreams” Grasp is not the same as hold— my grandfather-grief is old but fast, his work-shoe-heavy feet come back to wander through my days and later dreams. His roughened hands reached for pine pitch when fingers split, as if the sap could close the dreams that we call nightmares where we die. How much those hands brought life to wood, and iron, and rock, is still a mystery I’ve not yet solved, a reanimation of thoughts and things broken by use or time, which winged past our panes, a gray bird titmouse-small that our slow eyes cannot see stop, then fly. What can I believe I might still hold when the fall-light fails fast, leaving leaves, then bare branches to weather winter’s deep-white dreams? What can any hope for, apart from a short stay, when those who roam across our dreams wander farther every time they go? Your stone foundation still has life, no matter how bitter cold night is, no matter if we slide too quickly down a steep slope of December’s barren days that wash the wild wide field with whirlwinds. The frozen ten-ton granite blocks you rived with feathers and wedges will bear the weight of any snow. -----
A New Englander with old farming roots, Karen Kilcup is the Elizabeth Rosenthal Excellence Professor of American Literature, Environmental & Sustainability Studies, and Women’s, Gender, & Sexuality Studies at UNC Greensboro. Her forthcoming poetry book The Art of Restoration was awarded the 2021 Winter Goose Poetry Prize. She’s an avid cook, runner, and rock climber who has difficulty resisting the urge for More Garden.