The Real Work
There’s no reality TV show
that opens with a close-up of fingers snapping
one twig and another
to stack a stove with kindling.
In an off-the-grid cabin
I slip a lit match beneath a birch bark curl.
Splinters creak, a whine wanes,
a flame ascends, whoosh.
sap ekes out a pop.
Wood chips turn to coals;
flames grow hungry.
This is no Extreme Diet Challenge.
When a craving comes
I feed it billets: row by row
stacked eave-high each autumn.
Fuel for a fire
like a twist in a plot.
It’s easy to flip a switch
to eradicate the drafts.
It weighs on me
to imagine the oil
pumped and poured in furnaces.
How can I alleviate my guilt?
Split the wood,
set the blaze?
Might I rest easy
felling the tree
for the hearth to forge the stove?
I dreamt of a fitting for crimson flats,
a seamstress pressing fabric to my feet.
Fold, pin. Fold, pin.
Slipped off. Stitched. On again.
Open-eyed in the morning, I cross
the ramshackle factory floor, don
a pair of gloves,
that squares me like a saint,
a pleated mask that heaves steamy breath onto my glasses.
Swaths swing out from my machine,
slink over me stitch by stitch
until daylight’s nearly done. The minute
I glimpse a hazy yellow flame,
the blaze races up the fabric
to consume me in its folds.
Rachel Edelman holds MFA in poetry from the University of Washington, where she teaches creative writing. She has been awarded an artist’s residency at The Mineral School at Mt. Rainier, a Loren D. Milliman Fellowship, and two Academy of American Poets Prizes. Her poems, essays, and criticism have been published or are forthcoming in publications such as The Threepenny Review, Poetry Northwest, Southern Humanities Review, Scout Poetry, and The Critical Flame. She is currently at work on collections of poems and essays.