White Squall

by Caleb Curtiss

Fact: the stove grew
cool that night, as the logs
burned to embers—

the sky had fallen much
lower & closer to their home
than it ever had before.

Fact: the dark cornfield
rattled in its frame as,
switch in hand,

her mother urged her
through the open door
of their rented

farmhouse, slammed it
shut & turned
the deadbolt as the storm

approached. The girl
leaned into a frozen wall
of rotten clapboards.

This—more than the weeks
that would pass
with her mother locked

against her will in a state
mental institution—this
is what I understood to be

the source of my mother’s rage,
the screaming white
center of it, my inheritance

from that little girl, dressed
in threadbare pajamas,

in her own mother’s
silence as the blizzard
grew closer.

          And then,
while waiting for the additional
creamers she has asked

the busboy to bring
for her still-too-dark
coffee, my mother corrects

the record, tells me, yes,
this happened, but not to me.

And how could this be?

My memory of her memory
has played a trick on me,
my timing off

by an entire generation:
it had been her mother, Helen,
left in the cold that night.

Her broken hairpin
that petitioned the lock
as it froze into place,

the field like a sea of froth
come to swallow her whole.

Caleb Curtiss is the author of A Taxonomy of the Space Between Us, winner of the Black River Chapbook Competition. Recent work appears in the Gettysburg Review, Denver Quarterly, Beloit Poetry Journal, the Rupture, and elsewhere. You can find him online at http://www.cdcurtiss.com and https://twitter.com/cdcurtiss.