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It’s Cold on Church Hill

by Sarah Paley

Can’t quite skate yet.  You know—must
wait for the full freeze.  A frozen oar
sticks straight out of the ice—hope to die—
I’m not lying. Remember using sheets between one another—
to sail to the big island and beyond? Love
the picture you sent. We were too busy to eat. We

haven’t been that skinny since forever. We
cleared out the house and the barn. The musty
old sleigh—the kind horses pulled—teenagers “made love”—
to be excessively polite—in the back seat.  “O’er
the river and through the woods”—it’s some other
song they probably sang though. I found a die

in a dusty drawer in the office. Just one old die—
maybe Lloyd Taylor’s. He claimed he carved the “WE
COLD AS HELL—1939” into the wall. Another
dog, besides Honey, fell through the ice—not Curly—must
have been—did you have a black and white dog? Or
maybe it was just Honey. She was a great dog. I loved

her and Curly—though he had a mean streak. Loved
him despite it. Do you know who died?
Betty George. Lived in the house by Oreshan’s
Vegetable Stand. She did a show with her dog Moo. We
used to watch it—I think. Betty George and Moo—another
thing we’ve forgotten.  Alright, I know, you must

think I’m looking this stuff up. Must
be saying to yourself “who the hell is Betty Whosit.” Love,
it’s all just there—pick up a paper or hold a die—
it will all come back to you. The way we screamed “WHEE!”
as we sped on our skates on the Mohawk River. Another,

more forgetful mind maybe wouldn’t bother—or
relate this miscellany that is surfacing. Must
have been the near freezing of the river—another
winter.                                                            Love
the sun’s streaming rays giving it a biblical look. We—
what did I want to say? Well, it’s gone—dead.

We must love one another or die.


Sarah Paley lives in New York City with her husband and son. Her poems and other writing have appeared in Barrow Street, the Best American Poetry blog, and The New Yorker. (7/2011)

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