My Sister Wears Five Gold Barrettes and Smells of Mint and Cigarette Smoke

By Erin Wilson

My Sister Wears Five Gold Barrettes and Smells of Mint and Cigarette Smoke

Looking through my window from home
at the neighbourhood trees denuded,
the neighbours' houses standard, washed out,
the brown grass unredeemed,
the season undetermined, 
I'd have sworn this was imperfection.

But walking through this stand of pine,
replanted after logging took the old growth
(and the river shunted the logs away to rail cars,
and the rail cars shunted the logs away to the mills and factories,
and the factories shunted the logs into living rooms and bathrooms),
each tree as arrow-straight and towering as the next,
it feels as though I walk amongst the pipes of an organ,
the west side of each tree whitened with light.

There's an incorruptible, broken music
to late-day light passing through a grove of trees in winter, 
a kind of reverberating gospel silence,
snow or no snow.

And this year there's no snow,
so far, as much as I'd prefer it.

I've just come from the hardware,
a quick conversation with my sister,
who looks a good deal like me,
but for her flipped nose, eyes more ice-blue.
Her mother-in-law is staying with her and her husband,
a year of house repairs and COVID.
All things human can be messy, complicated.
My sister has let her hair grow grey.
She had it pinned up, as is her fashion,
a loose bun secured by five gold barrettes,
a cross between a 70's and a Victorian-do.

Just beyond the pine stand, the roar of falls subsumes all else,
mist clinging to and coating tree limbs and rock, instantly freezing.
Ice is forming along the shore further up the river, too.

When she bent (and groaned) to cut the plastic
we need to close off a room this winter,
feeding it off the cardboard tube
into a shimmering plastic puddle,
I noticed through the side-panels of her smock,
her waist is thickening.

So much imperfection in this world.

And yet, here, now, frazil pans slow and swirl, mid-river.

I love you, ice. I love you.