The Children's Blizzard, January 1888

First the snow, a white wall, took us by surprise,

then teacher sent us home, made us swear we’d stay together,

stick to the road, Shivering, we’d headed out,

held hands, tried to keep our eyes open. Too difficult,

and soon, it didn’t matter—there was no road

to see. Sounds silly, but the snow burned.

We walked as long as we could, even after we eldest children

realized we were lost. Samuel sat, refused to move,

so Sarah stayed with him to wait for us

to get help. I carried Rachel, her face red as a sugar beet,

her small breath warming my ear, and then

it was gone, but I kept moving, kept carrying her,

thinking someone must be searching, or the snow would stop,

or the sun would shine as it had the day before.

 

Then Farmer Schmidt dragging me onto his horse, which I

barely remember, him screaming into the wind,

asking after Samuel and Sarah. By the time we arrived

at his farm, I had passed out, unaware of adults

prying Rachel’s frozen body from my back,

sending out a search party that would find nothing

but bones and rags come spring, trying to rub

the ice from my limbs. I awoke four days later,

minus my toes, crying out for my mother,

praying to get lost in an eternity of summer’s hellish heat.

 

 

first published in Encore

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