BY M. L. YARBER
I was only out for cough drops and dinner, a desperate errand through lashing snow. But ragged and achy, I have sloughed home to the wrong house, two stories of mustard clapboard and a mailbox with one name newly scratched away. Your kitchen spills saffron across twilight and snapping wind, nearly reaching the shadowed curb where I watch. I can't see the table of thick knotted oak but still know the cobalt stoneware you have laid at its far end, the last dish not crunched underfoot. I paw muck from my nose as you light candles of evergreen on a side board, swirl cinnamon into steaming cider, and gaze out a window at spiteful flakes that whorl wisps of asthma into my choked lungs. Chill pierces my coat as steam wafts from the pot where you stir chicken into chowder. My eyes, swollen and glazed, weakly follow licks of firelight on your sable hair, and when your head lilts and shoulders sway I know the long climbing stretch of Chopin is about to make you weepy, though all I hear is the soft clank of a street light swinging against the tap of flakes. I long to thumb the tears that sear your cheeks no longer mottled and bruised, but you don't believe promises sworn on the unsure light of stars. So my heart swells and hardens, and I slog and stumble onward as I have since the night my rage stormed and my seething fist cracked your smile like ice.