“Skating on the Erie Canal”

A poem for the last of the ice—as the skating rink
closes in Syracuse’s Clinton Square—frozen
on top of the channel of the old Erie Canal.

When she answered, Mama said into the phone:
I heard you laugh a minute ago. Also her TV
interview with Tom Brokaw, her sifting flour over
the threshold, pointing to her own footprint as thief,
and the rat that lived in my room. Her right mind—
do I care? That time her voice laughed back at mine.
Was it like the photo? Great-grandbaby Ruth rests
across her knees, they look into each other, eyes
all the way back to me before I had will and words
to wreak havoc with predestination. Now Ruth
circles round and round the ice rink, singing Free
falling as the p.a. says no tagging, no racing back
against the flow, now she’s skating backwards,
now she flaps her arms and shouts, You won’t see
a penguin do this! Now she stands to say goodbye
between my knees, looking long into my eyes,
and I hold still so she can find whatever echo
she can, if time’s wrinkle rhymes with grit, grief,
grin, her eyes winkling out some link, around
and around the rink the song flies, the loud blade,
time, cuts through the ice, device of pain and found.

Minnie Bruce Pratt

Attribution-Non-Commercial-No Derivs
Creative Commons 2010

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