“Gelid” – Prose Poetry by T. Mazzara

The great ice barrier -- looking east from Cape Crozier - Edward Adrian Wilson, 1911
The great ice barrier — looking east from Cape Crozier – Edward Adrian Wilson, 1911

The grand finale of our Winter 2015 issue is T. Mazzara‘s touching prose poem “Gelid.”

{ X }

For Mike and Jess

YOUR HANDS WERE STOCKY AND ROUGH from hundreds of nights of drunken trips and drifted fights, medicated and on the nod. The chewed fingers heavy nicked from days of banging shoes, carving flaked and solid horn from the wobbly soles of timid horses. You had hard fists from shoving against the threatening lean of breathing flanks, banging clips against shuddering ribs, hooves elbowed and ungainly. I saw you clip a goat once. You made art.

And danger. But we all loved it. Out in the wild near Lock Haven, on careless nights, those cut hands gripped the steerage of your truck and pulled us three (four with Daisy) all sharp, fishtailing drunk and loose through gravelly firecuts beside potential falls and real peril, beside cliffs and sheer drops. It was a cold day.

I thought of you on the Ice, out past the dust and diesel, the back-action beeps of reversing machinery, past all the sound and smells and grit and thin humanity that make up that smoking cradle, that McMurdo Station. I remembered Daisy was so well-behaved in the extended cab.

I thought of you as the Royals stretched chalky and awesome. Fata morganas hashed impossible parapets into the distant coast. Didn’t we kick a dozen or so beer cans out the door and all over that gas station parking lot?

I thought of you in Antarctica as I moved a pallet of oil drums from the line in an outside storage area to the trembling gray shutters of the Vehicle Maintenance Facility. Shrill ice bits and volcanic ash snaked their way through the cracked door of my front-end loader. And I remembered all the locals at that gas station laughed.

Everything was okay. My own rough hand gripped the brodie knob on the steering wheel, the drums cargo-strapped tight against the forks. You showed me around that cool and rocky back road. There was snow between the trees. You pointed out where you’d crashed your truck.

I thought of your truck on all those careless back roads as I turned and rumbled at the bottom of the planet. I thought that I’d ask you down next season. And I thought that the world is not flat.

Why didn’t you come with me to the Ice, my friend? Why did you go the way you chose? Why did you choose what you did? Why that? We could have driven heavy equipment and welded things. We could have been drunk at Southern and stumbled ungainly over volcanic ash to the stolid sea ice. We could have toasted the melting ice pier or a passing gray skua. Raised oily glasses of golden whiskey to the fantasy of the Ross Dependency. Your hands would have been useful on the Ice.

And I thought of you this last Monday. I was in a phony house on West 10th Street in New York. It had rained earlier and I was soaked through and surrounded by the young and the phony and the untested and your voice came to me in my foolish writing. Faraway.

“Our time together was ours and mine was short. I had no time for the rest of the world.”

I thought of your empty hands, useless in the ground. I thought of the Ice again. Maybe I should have invited you. I thought of your wife. It gives me some comfort to know I took you with me. It may give her some now to know the same. Nearly winter here again.

In this hemisphere, at least.

I can’t wait for the snow.

And I’m okay, in case you’re worried.

{ X }

T. MazzaraT. MAZZARA was born in Virginia and studied at Trinity College Dublin.

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