After the first snow, I burn to deathanother teakettle, the second one in as many months,and the kitchen’s full of smoke.
An hour ago, I slipped into my husband’s barn coatand headed out to the woodpile, but the forestwas ice jewels, so I took a walk.
This is how we trace our pathsback to the source of trouble. I’d turned offthe whistle so’s not to wake my husband
in case he was dreaming of flying.Then the sun-dazzled hedges bowed down for me,blocked the road. Already this year
autumn was golden, and summer ripenedto sweetness on vines. Spring buds burstinto blossom. And now this crystal forest!
How have I not yet burned down the house?Later, when my husband opens the bathroom door,he is lit from behind, steam curling
into a lion’s mane around him.We were so young when we got married.I was carrying something heavy
when he dropped to one kneeand proposed. I put down the heavy thingbefore saying yes. [End Page 175]
A kid complained to his teacher about another kiddrawing. “He just scribbledand scribbled all hour, Mrs. Glover. He didn’t make anything.”
That’s me: The scribblerand the tattletale.
The teacher, too. The hungry drinkerand the gin-soaked olive.
And the glass. Standing at the cupboard with the door open,I’m eating bittersweet chips I’m savingfor cookies, shaking my finger at myself.
And my new novels, you should see them!I’ve become the snake that devours itself,starting with its own tail.
(At first it’s accidental, but
once I start, there’s no spitting myself out—it’s the way my teeth are angled,and so I keep on.)
The inevitable end is a mathematicalimpossibility, an eternal moving deeperwithin (despite my being very finite),
by halves of course, so that I never succeedin devouring myself. I am a dense knot,hoping to become a tunnel into an alternate universe. [End Page 176]
Bonnie Jo Campbell is the author of the best-selling novel Once Upon a River and a 2011 Guggenheim Fellow. She was a finalist for the 2009 National Book Award and National Book Critics Circle Award for her story collection American Salvage. Additionally, she has published the novel Q Road and the story collection Women and Other Animals. She lives in Kalamazoo, Michigan, with her husband and two donkeys.