What We Have
by Ruth Stone
On the mountain
the neighbor’s dog, put out in the cold,
comes to my house for the night.
He quivers with gratitude.
His short-haired small stout body
settles near the stove.
Out there in the dark, snow falls.
The birch trees are wrapped in their white bandages.
Recently in the surgical theater,
I looked in the mirror at the doctor’s hands
as he repaired my ancient frescos.
When I was ten
we lived in a bungalow in Indianapolis.
My sister and brother, my mother and father,
all living then.
We were like rabbits
in the breast fur of a soft lined nest.
I know now we were desperately poor.
But it was spring:
the field, a botanist’s mirage of wild flowers.
The house entered between two railroad tracks.
The houses split at the orchard end of the street
and spread in a dangerous angle down either side.
Long lines of freight for half an hour clicking by;
or a passenger train,
with a small balcony at the end of the last car
where someone always stood and waved to us.
At night the wrenching scream and Doppler whistle
of the two AM express.
From my window I could see a fireman stoking
the open fire, the red glow reflected in the black smoke
belching from the boiler.
Once I got up and went outside.
The trees-of-heaven along the track swam in white mist.
The sky arched with sickle pears.
Lilacs had just opened.
I pulled the heavy clusters to my face
and breathed them in,
suffused with a strange excitement
that I think, when looking back, was happiness.