Avery M. Guess

Moving to San Francisco, I Visit Laura and Alex and We Take a Canoe
Out on a Frozen Lake to Check on Her Science Experiment

—Concord, New Hampshire, November, 1992

We power through wrist-thick ice until we hit water 
then pull and hope the canoe’s prow gains purchase.

Dig and drag even as our wooden paddles splinter
and shred and fingers of fog hide our heavy breath.

Our grunts and the paddles punching the only sounds 
on this empty lake until we send chunks of ice singing

across its crystalline surface.  Landfall comes sudden 
as winter. On the damp, peaty ground, wintergreen’s

red berries and dark, waxy leaves poke through fall’s
detritus. I gather and crush a bunch in my ungloved hand,

inhale the scent of starting over. Paper birches scratch
reminders of their old selves on the clear November sky.

And before we leave, I look back at the lake we crossed
to see our path sealing shut like a coat zipping closed.


Avery M. Guess is a recipient of 2015 NEA Fellowship for Poetry, grants from the Barbara Deming Memorial Fund and the Kentucky Foundation for Women, and residencies from the Ragdale Foundation and Albee Foundation. She is a Ph.D. student at University of South Dakota and assistant editor for poetry at South Dakota Review. Recent and forthcoming publications include poems in Crab Orchard Review, Thrush Poetry Journal, and Rogue Agent and non-fiction in The Manifest Station. Her chapbook, The Patient Admits, is forthcoming from dancing girl press in summer 2017.


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