The new stove speaks only Serbian
but who cares? The old stove spoke nothing
because back when we built this cabin
if we didn’t know about touching hot metal,
we found out. Instead of potbelly,
this one’s a cube with black iron doors,
gray steel sides, ugly. Practical. Price was right.
Like this cabin of salvaged lumber
and estate-sale doors. Like our child,
conceived at no cost right next to old potbelly
without instructions or safety warnings.
He loved that stove but grown and gone
to another continent, another language.
Frost this night as we arrive late.
In the gray steel box behind black iron doors
a tipi of kindling over crumpled old news.
One match and it flames like hunger,
the kindling crackles, the little logs catch
and the stove makes popping sounds
which is Serbian for Welcome hello get warm
while the bed is like an ice-plunge
so we pile up quilts and spark heat,
you know, as couples do and at dawn
the old lumber of the cabin clicks and creaks
while the stove softly murmurs
which in any language is how you say
Build another tipi before you go,
I’ll be ready when you come back.
by Joe Cottonwood
Editor’s Note: This skillful poem’s concrete imagery paints an entire story of a life and what is important without ever pushing it directly at the reader.