Opening the Cottage

By Christina Cook

Featured Image: “Houses and Figure” by Vincent Van Gogh

Jays scrap in the maple
while I sit with my absence
of sound, and a bottle
of last summer’s wine.

I should be bleaching
the mouse-scat floor,
scraping their fur
from the spaces

left naked for plumbing.
I should be finishing off
the half-raked woods
or mending the hole

in the porch screen.
Sun’s still striking
the stretch of land
across the cove, where

the Frank-Lloyd-Wright-like
house has nestled in oaks
since my grandfather first
built our cottage.

I suppose I should be dusting
pollen off the chairs instead
of pouring another glass,
or pruning the rhododendrons

before they bloom
through the hole in the screen,
before the shadow reaches
all the way over the cove,

once again graying the oaks
as if they’d always been
the parchment bones of birds.
I suppose I should

stop mourning my mother
and put a fresh coat of paint
on the mildewed doors. I know
my sons are not here

because it’s too quiet
and easy to mourn,
and though the mice
have wintered here longer

than I have summered here,
it’s now my job to sweep their scat
back from the stove where
just last summer she stood

baking the boys’ first strawberry
rhubarb pie. The shadow
has overtaken the cove
and spreads, birch by birch,

across the far side of the lake.
Soon, lights will come on
in the windows of cottages
to worship the night once again

while I refill my glass, waiting
for their dark god to fall
through the screens
of the pollen-green porch.

Christina Cook is the author of the poetry collections A Strange Insomnia, Ricochet, and Lake Effect. Her poems, translations, essays, and book reviews have appeared widely in journals including the Prairie Schooner, New England Review, and Crazyhorse. A graduate of Vermont College of Fine Arts, she is an assistant teaching professor at Penn State University. Cook is currently working on a novel titled American Alchemy.

Originally appeared in NOR 11.

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