Garage Sestina

Prairie Fire - - ELLIE SAWATZKY -

Built first, hill­top. We moved in be­fore the snow,

bunk beds in the loft where Bram and I would sleep

un­til our new house had walls, heat. Blue

light from the fish­tank, tetras and pink-fleshed frogs

swim­ming back and forth through the night.

The tank and satel­lite TV were ev­ery­thing we needed,

our mother in the kitchen knead­ing

bread. Wild rice from the neigh­bours, first snow

fall­ing on the green tin roof. Our fa­ther worked nights

at the hos­pi­tal, Mother sipped coffee while we slept.

When did she sleep? She sewed quilts, CBC and frogs

for com­pany. Morn­ings, the pines sent blue

shad­ows down the drive­way, and Bram too, blue

superhero of him­self, garage door open to the snow. Need,

want—we didn’t know the dif­fer­ence. A frog

float­ing belly-up af­ter half-swal­low­ing a fish. Snow

to bury their bod­ies. We didn’t know Bram was sick, sleep­less

above me, need­ing in­sulin. I wasn’t afraid of night­fall

yet. Ra­dio’s low mur­mur, my mother’s even breath all night

on the other side of a book­case. Sala­man­ders sten­cilled blue

and pink in spray­paint on the con­crete floor. Asleep,

awake, my mind scur­ried with colour. Mother’s nee­dle,

a quilt she called “When the Geese Come Home…”. Snow—

so much we couldn’t go to school. Si­mon Says and leapfrog

off the fu­tons. Fi­nally, win­ter’s grip slipped. We squat­ted frog

legged on the shore, pos­si­bil­i­ties flip-flop­ping un­der ice. Night

came slow. Our new house a skele­ton wear­ing snow

like pearls. Saw­dust, cedar. Coin smell of earth. Then Bram’s blue

veins strain­ing in the hos­pi­tal. Bram need­ing

so much, Mother refusing sleep,

and me, I felt lucky. I got to watch more TV, sleep

deeply a while longer. Sneak up on snakes and frogs

by the lake, still guilt-free, need­less

to say, un­wor­ried about what might sneak up on me. Night

half-swal­lowed by morn­ing. Black sky blu­ing

at the edges, warm breath over the garage, snow

dis­solv­ing like sleep. Dust, boxes of mice. Night

hawks hunt­ing, frogs keen­ing in weeds. Blue

even­ing, an­i­mal needs ex­posed, and so many months un­til snow.

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