The Avalanche

As I stagger to my feet there is only the true absence of light, my useless eyes, a pressure on the face and terror in the groin. Beneath is the low, cur-cold with greasy teeth. I can taste dust sifting through the creaking rafters. I never dreamed I would curse my father for his house building skill. Better to have been flattened like my neighbors must have been, the life squeezed out of them like spurted milk out of a mare’s teat.

I close these useless eyes and hide in a dream. I remember those cascades of mountain flowers reflected in your laughing young eyes as we ran and ran on young clouds of love before I finally gave myself to you that summer morning in the meadow. The sky ran on above us, past the mountain snow into its own dark blue wonder, into the shy running stars.

What to do now, held fast in my winter coffin? I could unlatch the pine chest and take out my wedding dress, hear the tiny bells along the hem, admire the gold trim and hand-loved lace at the sleeves with my freezing cheek. Or I could feel along the shelf above the stove and pull down yams and garlic and the can of greens you brought me last early fall from the valley. No. I am hungry for light not food, but reason says there can be no fire . . . even a candle flame will kill. There will never be another hearth fire in this life. But waiting will kill me too. There’s a knife on that shelf, so sharp in the darkness, calling to me now. Knives, flames, heat or the deep cold: so much death.

The acrid smoke fills my nostrils as this little flame blossoms; even this match light hurts my eyes and I turn away for a moment, but I must turn back. Light cuts through the house like a scimitar. My lantern bends to the tiny flame, washes the tomb of timbers in rich shadows. I have made my choice; the flame is warm and true. When the air is gone and my light dies I will turn to the wall and sleep.

Next Spring you will come for me. You will climb the steep mountain trail soon as the snow allows. You would have brought me the early greens from the frosted valley gardens and more stories about the odd valley folk, but word of our buried homes will have reached you and you will already know I am dead. You will come empty-handed, weeping as you wedge open my snow-sealed door. After you set things right you will climb further up the mountain with my shell on your back. There the old monks will take the knife to what was me and then the axe as the grateful vultures circle above. I will be returned. You will not stay to watch this; you will walk back down without the burden of me, back down to strangers bustling under the chill Spring valley rains, your boots wet from the water rushing downstream carrying the melted snows of my life.



Doug Thiele

About Doug Thiele

Doug Thiele writes poetry, short stories and lyrics. He teaches Composition and Creative Writing in Norfolk, Virginia where he lives with his wife and grandsons. He is deeply respectful of his Tribal heritage.
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