by Matt Jasper

Aged two and three—
they seal-slide toward the sunlit top
of a stream that froze then lowered
a foot to freeze again beneath
its higher ceiling.

Their father startles then recalls
it’s been cold too long for them to be taken
by the water beneath. Cautious
of caution, he sends
no warning to the delighted pair
as they smash through sparkling almost-glass
and discover these things:

They are still alive; they never knew
there could be ice beneath ice, that something thin
could smash them down to something holding firm
the memory that it once babbled and soaked.

By lying on their backs and pushing with their heels,
they can just fit under the sheet—
looking up through a craggy lens into a smeared sky
of lit branches iced also into conspiracy
smashed by laughter as sons destroy
the glory of a quarter mile—sliding under like torpedoes
slowed by the lifting shark fin of a knee.

When they see that propelling themselves cracks the sky,
they flatten and lie there chewing watery shards,
spitting out wool mitten fibers, demanding
that he push them farther than he dares—
each time closer and closer to beyond
where he hopes they will rise up
and return to him only
to be launched farther away.

When at last they slide
then creep around a bend
and don’t come back to him,
he learns to trust that their screams
are joyous though reminiscent
in pitch to those of eviscerated swine.
The stream is frozen, he reminds himself.
There’s no need to tell them not
to get carried away.

Matt Jasper lives in New Hampshire with five children and their squeaky violins. He started a restaurant called The Friendly Toast and has had poems in Grand Street, Fine Madness, and elsewhere. His book Moth Moon is available at SPD and Amazon.

Back to Issue Two: Winter 2009