And [fearing] that all other wynters would prove like the first, the company by no means would stay any longer in the country.
—William Strachey, The Historie of Travaile into Virginia Britannia, 1612


Back behind Popham:
mud too innocently plodding

to reach sea. A vegetable lap
of water once held in winter

the whole town’s next-
summer’s edible ice.

Saw-sounds at the site
kept deer away, and the egg-

spiced mouths of weasels,
the sickness that could be hidden

in the quickest things, a sprue gut
or fever we hoped not to know.

Denying these small beasts
our source. Pond by rain fattened,

made good by cold for slivering.
White crags of ice

fricatively bearded,
sleigh bluster, days of chop—

every year a dozen fingers
smashed or bent wrong.

And for what? For pleasure in summer
to remember near-torture

as a thing gone through, chipped
to baby eye-teeth, pitchered

and neuter with lemons and sugar.
Bad winter, good ice: obvious as apples

best in drought, or love
in remove: fate hates an easy time,

is how it seems. Turns
itself about. The baby blue,

slap it up, gulp blue sky, chase
the blueing blood out.

That squinty, chapped world-substance
opposing matching, letting nothing

rest unswitched,

Here now I see it flummoxed
this one moment: ice only creeping

the pond edge, too warm
this year to hold. Nothing won

by saw shriek lorded home.
This the new unseen sightless gash:

this knowing there will be trials,
never again at appointed times.