The crunch of sullen snow under Thinsulated Wellies
Down the slope to the barn, where the black horse wreathed
In his steaming breath nickers, not yet impatient.
The blue roan fades into a graphite sky.
One of three surviving barn cats, Pythias bereft of Damon,
Bellies under the door, always the greeter.
Dancing with no imprint along the hardpack.
The door sticks, yields, and gives into a frigid
Vaulted cavern of dim past, secured by three tons
Of tightly stacked hay. This winter is assured.
A clatter as the black enters his stall, a monarch accepting
His preprandial treat, then turns with a regal swing of haunches,
Returning to his pen, outdoors, where he aligns his body to the heavens, Drawing what warmth he can from a thinly arrayed sun.
The roan gobbles his treat and stamps a foot
While the spring green flakes come free of their bales.
Outdoors, the pens are warmer than the barn.
Before bowing his neck to the coldly silver bin, the black bestows
A look of acknowledgment, soft and deep; the roan chortles and dives in.
The three cats, having dodged the perilous night, swirl in and out,
Turning tigers into butter, knowing the order of things. Their cattery an unused stall,
Bales of disdained hay stacked into rooms and ledges and hiding places. They hunker
Confidentially to their food, their heads the hub of a three-spoked wheel,
A sign of peace.
One last chore. The sledge hammer, having accrued to itself
Every negative degree of the voided night, must be
Blackly swung against the opaque ice of the water tank.
Some chips, then shards. An indent, and a plunge into the wet.
The surface fractures along planes mysterious and ordained,
Yielding slick blocks of ice to be hurled from the tank
Lest they refreeze.
This last is the undoing of the mountaineering gloves.
My hands grow numb as I herringbone up the hill, turning
To look at the horses, heads hidden in their bins. But the black
Raises his head, and I see in him the cavalry mounts of a land
That no longer exists.
Thanks, in media res. I'm so glad you like the imagery. (It sounds as if you know cats.)
You spotted one of my indecisions. I debated the "coldly silver" -- but that metal bin gets so darn cold. Maybe "metallic" would convey a different angle. And the sledge hammer gets -- and looks -- so cold it makes your heart sink. I always save that part for last because the cold handle goes right through the gloves even before they get wet from slinging broken ice out of the water. I've tried so many gloves -- sheepskin mittens are the best but clumsy. Hurry, spring! Then I can write about mud and the mortality of baby bunnies.