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A Ski Destination of the Heart

by Michael Goldman

I can understand the practicality of cross-country skiing. I mean, if the neighboring village were running low on a crucial medicine, or if the tribe were running out of meat and the nearest caribou herd were 5 miles away, I would be the first to don my skis. But to flail across an icy lake, parts of my body soaked in sweat while other parts are either frozen numb or dessicating in the bitter wind, is not my idea of recreation.

Granted, I was raised in a warm, flat town in Southern New Jersey. Only once each winter I was coerced into visiting a single-slope ski hill where I wedged frankenstein boots onto my feet, took a lesson, and spent the rest of the day reading in the warm lodge. Since then I have always considered skiing a form of punishment.

I evaded skiing nearly my entire life, until now, except for a single instance at college in New Mexico. My college girlfriend convinced me it would be fun to spend an afternoon on borrowed skis from the college. All I remember from that day is a flash of red poles and falling multiple times down a hill. I put it behind me until today.

You see, my wife is Scandinavian. Every winter of her childhood, she was taken on long cross-country ski vacation to northern Norway. They rode a caterpillar tractor loaded with gear and provisions to a cabin above the timberline, from where they would ski the fjelds to their hearts’ content. So, of course, she owns skis and has gone out cross-country skiing, usually alone, every winter of our life together.

But then the week before Valentine’s Day, she gave me a knowing look and asked if I would join her on a long weekend of cross-country skiing at an outdoor center. I knew that any hesitation to answer on my part would be fatal, so I leaped in with a quick assent that, of course I would go with her and give it a try.

So she booked the room and, when the day came, we drove the four hours north to the outdoor center. She rented skis for me and signed me up for a lesson, which I guess I passed, since they let me keep the skis for rest of the day. In the afternoon, she and I ended up on a trail along a frozen lake in bright sunshine on deep packed powder, gliding along side by side. I fell (only) three times. Most of my body was soaked with sweat, except for the few extremities that were frozen in the negative wind chill.

As the path turned away from the lake towards the road and our warm room, I looked over at her. The bright sun was over her shoulder, shining down over the white expanse of the lake. The dark pine trees behind her were layered with white snow and her pink cheeks were round and smiling as she said simply, “Thank you.”

First published by the Daily Hampshire Gazette, Feb., 2015

Late Winter, Potting

by Michael Goldman

It is zero degrees out
and I am filling my seed trays
I have sent off the queries
and manuscripts
to places even colder
pent up energy
propels me through the empty house
looking for useful activities
There is twenty inches of rimey snow outside
hard enough to dent one’s ideals
inside I am handling dry soil
individual seeds
that have laid patiently in their paper
waiting
they think spring is coming
it is all they think of

I level the soil knowing
that without me
there is no hope for them
even with me
their future
looks precarious

Originally published in The Fourth River, April 2015, p.85

The Cold

by Michael Goldman

I go ice fishing
in the hole of my childhood
and reel in
empty hooks

Published in the 2014 fall issue of Poet Lore

The Reprieve

by Michael Goldman

When the damp strips of cast-off bark lie slack
like leather tongues on the old boundary stone wall
and the rabbit tracks leave an icy staccato in the snow
I tire of myself
sitting hours at my desk
and let myself be drawn by the cold hazy sun
out into the pathless woods
where stout trees stand half-dressed
draped in damp moss to the north
but bare to the south in half-naked anticipation.
There is a place where water seeps slowly past to the bog
with stones large enough for stepping
and a single Japanese multiflora rose sinks its thorns into my coat
as I walk by to enter the stand of white birches.
Nearby are vernal pools
charted by my weekend hiking partner
who photographed and registered the sites
when he got wind of a developer
who was going to build eighty-four houses here.
Past the birches the soils get sandier
there below the snowcover
just perfect for the endangered Eastern Box turtles
who plod around there
some with expensive radio antennae
so the developer might know
where he may and may not dig.
I recall the neighborhood meeting
earlier this week
when the town planner announced
that all these woods
and the bog too
and the vernal pools
and the turtles
had been purchased by the city
as conservation land
except for a handful of building lots
out on the edge along the road
all this would remain more or less
as it is now
and I wonder if anyone told the land
it was given a reprieve
or if I was the first –
that the turtles can relax
the coyotes and toads
can count on returning
to their hunting and breeding grounds
another season
the saplings can continue to stretch
in the shadows of their giant forebears
and when I tire of myself
and this great disjointed world
threatens to pull me apart with it
I will still be able to slip off to this place
where the strips of bark lie slack on the stones
and the damp moss clothes the sturdy trees.

The Contract

by Michael Goldman

I will make you miserable for years
You will make me miserable for years

I will love you despite this
You will love me despite this

I will blame myself for hurting you
You will blame yourself for hurting me

Though it wasn’t my fault
Though it wasn’t your fault

I will be patient while you are lost
You will be patient while I am lost

I will take the journey back to myself
You will take the journey back to yourself

In the distance I will see you waiting for me
In the distance you will see me waiting for you

Let’s Play:
The Bee Game

by Michael Goldman

All the males lumber around the house or
hang out on the porch
getting fed by the females
and growing fat and lazy
The males are harmless
If they get excited all they can do
is make loud droning noises
Their only job is
in the spring to fly up and have sex
in mid-air with the queen
who rips out their penis and they drop dead
The unsuccessful drones hang out till winter
when the females throw them out
to die in the cold

Meanwhile all the females, except the queen,
are workers who tend to the males
and also to thousands and thousands of eggs and babies
keeping them warm, fed and cosy
in tiny rooms made of wax flakes
which the females peel from their bellies
On nice days they fly to thousands of flowers
wearing down their wings
to provide food for everyone
They don’t like to be disturbed
and are quick to defend
Females have stingers
but if they use them, they die

Music CD:  Tell them today

By Michael Goldman

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