By Kaja Weeks
My sister is fifteen, I am eight.
We’re on the ice wearing white leather skates.
She—lanky, scowling, a brown ponytail
swaying as she moves.
I, round and overblown in a rabbit-fur hat
that’s too small for my head,
a mustard and white checkered coat
with extra felt lining that squeezes
my belly and chest.
My sister’s slender body
glides away effortlessly
toward the far end of the pond.
My skates are tight, cramp my feet
and I let my ankles turn out to
relieve the pressure.
I can hear my father’s voice
shouting directions from the dirt and snow
near the Chevrolet where my mother stands,
veiled with white mist over her face
while he gesticulates, calls the orders:
Let the hounds out, exercise,
train them, discipline them.
I can’t wait to move, and push off,
one, two, three, glide;
one, two, three, four, five, six,
glide long and breathe beautiful cold
bittersweet smells of wintry meadow.
My breath seeds vapor
that swirls front and past my face
and I can no longer hear
a blessed thing behind me.
I skate near my sister, but we don’t talk.
Pale reeds and cattails shiver
in waves, murmur in the berm
between frozen pond and half-melted river.
If I were swimming I’d be on my back,
floating, ears submerged, eyes closed,
then peering from a watery window
at the sky straight above.
When I shove off hard
white flecks shave upward
before I loop my feet around smoothly,
turn and turn, turn—
I’m spinning like a skater.
Back in the car my sister and I
are silent and face opposite windows.
My cheeks are wind-burned,
a drum bellows in my ears,
cold toes ache through numbness,
body radiates heat.
Our father drives and dictates
the mechanics of skating.
Kaja Weeks, a poet and essayist who is the child of World War II refugees, often writes narratives that highlight identity and inter-generational themes. She has been published in The Sugar House Review, Ars Medica: Journal of Medicine, The Arts and Humanities, The Potomac Review (Pushcart Prize nominee) and elsewhere. Kaja is a graduate of New Directions, a multi-year writing program of The Baltimore-Washington Center for Psychoanalysis. Her writing can also be found at https://lyricovertones.com