Three half-grown girls decide one day to climb an immense mountain that, everyone knows, only men should climb. Halfway up, the air grows so thin that they feel faint and cry for help; immediately, a giant man made of snow—a familiar, recurring character at whose appearance all the listeners murmur in approval—appears and offers to carry them the rest of the way to the summit. But there is a catch. There’s always a catch. Depending on who’s telling the story, the catch is either that once they reach the summit, they will become male and no one who knows them back home will recognize them or have anything to do with them; or that they will be obliged to stay forever on the summit, which everyone assumes is cold, windy, and utterly inhospitable. Regardless, it turns out that the top of the mountain is in fact a warm and airy paradise, filled with both men and women whom everyone below imagines to have died in their attempt to reach it. Two of the girls, who might be men at this point, if the story has gone that way, are eager to stay, but the third considers it her duty to go back and inform the rest of the people about this wondrous place. When no one can persuade her to stay they set the snowman after her; he turns himself into an avalanche that destroys them both. There is always an appalled silence at the conclusion of this story.
knit one purl two twilight all afternoon
At an early age she falls out of the nest while her parents are off hunting, is rescued by a busybody who goes around all day rescuing things that don’t want to be rescued, and is handed off to and brought up in a family whose strict religious beliefs require them to clip her wings as soon as she tentatively begins to flutter a few feet off the ground. She seems puzzled over the loss at first but gets over it soon enough, they think; fits in well with the other youngsters in the family; is reasonably cheerful and does what she’s told as often as any other child. Her foster parents are distressed only by the fact that, as she grows, most of her friends come from families without the same moral scruples as their own and spend half their time aloft, improperly supervised. They express their dismay over the company she keeps in increasingly severe tones until one day—heaving aside the heavy coat that covers her useless appendages—their fosterling stares them down with a keen, bright eye and begins to sing a wild, incomprehensible song. Her disreputable friends, thus summoned, come to sit on the windowsill in a row and sing along, their song growing higher and more piercing until the window glass shatters and they swoop in and join forces to carry her off in their talons. Does her foster family ever see her again? In some versions of the story, yes; and in other versions, no.
her eyes whether it’s smoke or fog
sun in my eyes I emerge from a myth
drowsy green encounters with apples
null set; I staple my hand to my disappointment
Contrary to rumor, there are many boxes that I haven’t opened. It’s no harder for me to resist temptation than for anyone else. And honestly, I’m still not sure I’m sorry.
leaf skeleton key to an unlocked door
I never expected to look back until I did. My fingers fumbled on the strings; I was suddenly afraid that she had fumbled too. Those last few sour notes still ring in my ears.
long winter evening a song in every shattering
Yesterday we flew pretty close to the sun, but today we’ll fly even closer. The wax is hardening in the molds. We pace restlessly, raising and lowering our arms like fledglings who know they have wings for a reason.
in a sky full of clouds only one cloud white enough
He measures out six seeds for me, six small poison pills, six ways to forget my life, six small deaths for me to die.
…and the last hum of the cicada the same as the first