Olsen’s Pond

winter pond

I returned to the old house,

now still, vacant,

staring with unshaded eyes

upon a snowy front garden,

shrubs overgrown with the

lustiness of summer

now split to the ground

taxed with heavy snow.

I tried to light the parlour woodstove,

same cranky cast iron smoker

clanking and rattling

when heated in the best of times

had given up the ghost,

cold metal unyielding to wadded paper

and an old mouse nest.

The silence of the rooms only broken

by  hissing wind whipping around  eaves

rattling old bones in the attic

stirring the haunts sleeping in their corners.

It took  time for pine to catch,

the water to coffee.

An old iron skillet served for the bacon

and eggs  brought from the city

tasting far better in the country air.

I looked down at  hands cracked

in the sharp winter’s light,

moisture gone, the air dry,

hair static with electricity,

feet numb from the chill.

I walked down to Olsen’s pond,

looked through the glassine surface

remembered the boy who had fallen

through the ice while playing hockey–

slipped under the thin cover, disappearing

without a sound, noticed when our puck flew

Up in the air and he, the guard, missing.

We skated to the edge, threw bodies flat

trying to reach him just out of catch,

crying like babies, snot running down our chins,

knowing he was floating just under the ice,

silent like the lamb he was.

Childhood ended then for most of us.

We started to drift away to the city,

our skates and sticks put up, Olsen’s

pond deserted like a haunted minefield.

Forty years ago I still remember that day

when I stretched as far as I could

my belly freezing on treacherous ice,

grasping to reach a life just out of sight,

his muffler and stick floating in water,

The boy, the important part,

gone for good from a chilly winter’s play.

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2009

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4 Responses to “Olsen’s Pond”

  1. Margie Says:

    Powerful imagery once again. I felt as if I were there on the ice, there in the cabin years later, my hands dry, my hair static-filled…thanks, sweetie, for starting my year off right!


  2. ladynyo Says:

    Uahhh….I STILL cry when I get to the end of the poem. lol!

    It was Madsen’s Pond, actually, but Ollie was our closest neighbor. HE had the hill. We used to ice it down with a water hose after snowfall….it would freeze over night…and we would ski off the hill, with boards and boxes packed under the snow. We could have killed ourselves, but this was what you did for entertainment in the country. LOL!

    No children were hurt in the composing of this poem. No children died, and I have to be thankful for that because any death was well removed back then. We had a rather bucolic environment.

    Thank you for reading this poem and resonating with it. Makes me know when the issues of connection are working.



  3. Berowne Says:

    Very nicely done! I recall reading this before – maybe last winter, brrr.

    A couple of technical comments. I have trouble parsing the sentence “I tried to light the parlour woodstove, same cranky cast iron smoker clanking and rattling when heated in the best of times had given up the ghost”; should that be “which when heated”? And “tasting better in the country air” seems to scan more smoothly for me than “tasting far better in the country air”, which feels like it has an extra syllable.


  4. ladynyo Says:

    Hi Berowne,

    Yes, I posted this first last winter, when I wrote it. It’s part of a series of “Winter Poems” that developed over last winter.

    I think poetry has a wide district… I left out words that might ‘parse’ better….lol! Love that word, parse.

    Perhaps there is an immediacy ….or perhaps it just feels different in the mouth, but I think it’s always the poet’s call. But then again, poetry is always fluid, can grow and change later.

    Some times the shorthand that a poet uses works for them…and not for readers. This might be a good case of that.

    Thank you for reading and your comments. And I notice, Berowne.


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