Tag Archives: Wisconsin Poets Calendars

“Northwoods Christmas Orphans” by Nancy Austin

We caved to the kids visiting in-laws on the real holiday.
No, not chopped liver, I reassure my husband, coax a scarf
into his ungloved hands, point to crystalline aspen and hoar-frosted
huckleberry under the just-shaken snow globe sky.

Tires crunch a path around the lake, a doe darts across the wooded drive.
We kick off boots in a knotty-pine kitchen fragrant with cardamom, bacon, vanilla.
Winnie whips up her cream cheese frosting, mammoth cinnamon swirls yield
to our knives thick with sweet butter cream.
Emily, energizer bunny of this geriatric cohort, converses too quickly to think
between gasps of air, My friend can’t see with her immaculate generation.

We gather around their woodstove after breakfast.
Emily’s husband Ray recalls the year their Ford Fairlane
broke down near a rural tavern/general store,
Emily fills in every other phrase before he can finish.
Bologna at the bar. Crackers that Christmas.
Winnie and Ron remember a holiday alone,
Rotisserie chicken with our fingers in the parking lot.
They held one another’s gaze like a warm hand,
as if to reaffirm life’s slights and disappointments
form the glue that bonds, that comforts.
I nodded to my husband with that same knowing glance.
He narrowed his eyes, muttered chopped liver.

Nancy Austin has lived on both coasts, but prefers the land between. She relishes time to write in the Northwoods. Austin’s work has appeared in Adanna, Ariel, Gyroscope Review, Midwestern Gothic, Portage Magazine, Verse Wisconsin, and the Wisconsin Poets Calendars. Her poetry collection is titled Remnants of Warmth (Aldrich Press/Kelsay Books, 2016).