pages Stacking Wood

by Rachel Barenblat

Published in Issue No. 12 ~ May, 1998

October was a month of damp Sundays. The air was cool like wet cotton. The trees blazed with strange alphabets of color. We walked awkwardly to the woodshed, bearing logs like heavy blocks of myrrh. It’ll be dangerous here in winter, I said, remembering how my parents filled their fireplace with green magnolia branches in a copper tub. When rain dug grooves in the garden we lit fires, but only Eddie could fetch wood from the woodpile, because he wore rough gloves that I could fit both hands into. The pyramids of logs were no place for children, I said. But there are no scorpions here, you said, No tarantulas, no brown recluse spiders whose bites masquerade as ant bites until the flesh disappears. Even snakes here have benevolent names, like “milk” and “grass.” Compared with the hidden and hot dangers of my childhood, the challenges of winter are simple and straightforward. Ice is inevitable: the worst it can do is to break things in clean lines like quartz. That is why it is better to live in the North, you said, Where people speak plainly and nothing is disguised.

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Rachel Barenblat is co-founder of Inkberry, a literary organization in the Berkshires. She holds an MFA from the Bennington Writing Seminars. A chapbook of her poems, the skies here, was published by Pecan Grove Press (San Antonio) in 1995. Learn more at