Trying To Read The Gulag Archipelago On My First Hundred Degree Day by Christine Potter

Trying To Read The Gulag Archipelago On My First Hundred Degree Day

Married to my first husband for one year, in our
apartment with only its bedroom air conditioned,

I waited until someone on TV announced it was
really one hundred degrees outside and walked

to the courtyard through our hall’s airless murk
with the sole book on our shelves I hadn’t read.

I sat under a crabapple tree on brown grass and
watched the afternoon sun spattering the ground—

bits of white heat that wobbled a little. There was
a breeze somewhere but I couldn’t feel it. I wanted

to know what a hundred degrees felt like and this
was it: a desiccated leaf next to me that I crumbled

in my fingers and blew away. Sweat at the back of
my neck, under my hair and my breasts, even in

the shade. An icy mountain of a book I could not
manage to read and still haven’t. Luminous green

bottles of beer inside, in the noisy refrigerator with
the chicken for dinner and a marriage that showed

no signs of failing, yet. Everything for the first time,
trying to make it all part of me, to breathe in and hold.

by Christine Potter

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Editor’s Note: This poem’s oblique suggestion of doom is offered via clear, concrete imagery, offering the reader an ominous future with studied resonance.