Fire on the Ice

Katherine Case

After dinner and it was already
long dark, the forest and lake disappearing
from windows as they forgot
the short day. Clumped tinsel
on the Christmas tree
reflected fireplace and kerosene lamps--
us all scattered throughout the cabin
like serving bowls across the big wood table
where mom and dad and a mostly
empty bottle were starting up--
me glancing at my brother from my spot
on the rug near the big chair, mom
rolling her eyes and then the silence
rushed out from between them,
surrounded us and scattered
out into the invisible forest.
That's ridiculous. Impossible.
But it was not, and this time was new because somehow
my parents had stumbled onto an argument
that could be proven, and the next day
we gathered hot dogs, snow shovels,
firewood, cleared snow from the ice
in one of the little bays down on the lake.
We built snow benches and Dad brought down
kindling, matches, lighter fluid and that night
we had a fire on the ice, everyone
down there because here was physics,
a question with an answer,
a part of our lives from then on
tradition--that every year
we would sit in the womb of the solstice
eating marshmallows and watching
the lake's ghost white shadow
reach out on three sides.