A Parallel Uni-Verse
That winter, I knew the price of a cord of wood.
I pored through the back of the free weekly paper
and circled the best deals in my red pen.
The guy who backed his truck into the dooryard
of our summer rental and dumped a pile of new birch there
said it was good wood, but what did we know?
Just college kids. Just English majors. We took him at his word
and waved goodbye to his John Deere cap
disappearing around the bend.
The pile looked enormous, gleaming white in the pale
November sunlight, but stacked, it dwindled quickly.
We started to conserve in January,
worried about seeing the patchy dead grass beneath it
long before the heaps of snow disappeared.

That winter, I knew about being cold.
When the hungry stove was full of the green birch, the iron
would glow red with the heat of it, and stepping outside
to the chill night felt good, like a cool pond on a hot day.
But when mornings came,
grey and too early, our breath visible
in the air above the bed, the stove had nothing for us but
ashes. We would shiver in our woolen coats,
trying with clumsy frozen fingers to
kindle the fire again. Cold fingers break
a lot of matches.
At night, we lay together, scissored under flannel sheets,
brought close for warmth more than passion.

Frost flowers bloomed
in intricate gardens on the window,
and beyond, oil tankers floated the silvery expanse of the bay.
Sea ice stretched from shore to meet the big ships
carrying fuel for other houses, not ours.
Inside, we started arguing, at first in low voices, then louder.
You never woke up to tend the fire in the night.
Oh, but you track dirt in from the woodpile and forget to sweep it.
The domestic squabbling grew like those
ice flowers, became like the snow banks that smothered the house.
The problem was me: my inconvenient
boyfriend always writing letters from school in the desert,
where he was sad but warm enough.
The problem was you: tired of being a secret,
wanting more from me than that coldness.
My parents came in February, cut their visit short
when they had to wear hats and gloves inside

Later they brought down a load of seasoned wood in my
father’s green pickup.

Those fires lit easy. We drank wine
and read poetry
aloud in the heat of it.
But when spring came, you moved out.
Disbelieving, I watched you pack your car,
the angle of the sun on my face
steeper than when we’d moved in,
thoughts of a life without you
burning like frostbite
into my heart.


Abigail Curtis is a news reporter in Belfast, Maine.

Firewood
By Abigail Curtis
big long allagash river, we 'ave paddled her. in a week in the north woods, we saw four moose (including an adorable calf), dozens of beaver dams, a rusting tramway and railroad engines that were used more than a century ago in the logging industry and now are just a strange, fitzcarraldo-like ruin in the wilderness. we heard lumber trucks in the distance but saw only two rangers and three other paddlers to talk to in a week of days. we saw flocks of geese take off, honking, for points south. we made it through the rapids and.portaged around the beautiful allagash falls.

we survived days and days of rain. we avoided the tornado at Oxbow. we woke up Wednesday night to a terrifying thunderclap that sounded like it was right next door. we made fires of wet wood from the northern rain forest. the car smells like mold and wet dog, but we had a good time, dammit.

(Abigail Curtis, F-book post, Sept. 13, 2013)
(found poem)
Anything could happen,
in this stretched-out moment
between the wild

orange sunset and the hushed
instant when the velvet cape of night
finally settles over the sere

shoulders of the autumn land.


Abigail Curtis is a news reporter in Belfast, Maine.

Twilight, November
By Abigail Curtis