Thursday, October 27, 2011


We all carry memories that stretch back forever into our childhoods, and who knows if those memories are really the first ones, or if they tell their  stories truthfully. How can we know if every detail of a memory is the way it actually was?  We cling to enough of what happened to give that memory its lasting power, its way of helping us know who we are and where we come from.

This little poem tries to capture what I've come to think of as my first memory.  I can feel the heat of the wood stove, feel my grandmother's hands as she buttoned my dress, see the light off the car windows outside.  It was Saturday.  The wind was everywhere.  We were going into town, that small Southern town that on Saturday became the center of the universe.   Cold was coming on fast.  Halloween was approaching.   The two women dressing me became larger than life as I remember this afternoon.  And the wind whistling and howling around the house!  Such a mystery to me, that wind could take the house I loved and make it sing.   This poem still gives me pleasure because it keeps that memory fresh and lively.

Cold Spell

I remember the stove’s  black belly
we huddled beside that afternoon,
the three of us,
two old and one young,
the wind whistling round the house.
It’s the corners make it sing, my grandmother said,
the sharp edges.
The windows rattled,
the day outside bright as the sun
on the Studebaker’s windshield I squinted
toward while they were dressing me
in my little white slip edged in lace,
and my little pink socks cuffed in lace,
and my Sunday-best dress with the hem
hitched up every two inches
so I could see more lace whenever
I sashayed around.
Because I was a girl.
I was their girl.
Their hands on my  body were cold,
their mouths clicked and chirped.
The wind howled.

from Catching Light, LSU Press


  1. Wonderful, Kay! I have some early memories that are perfectly preserved -- like flies in amber.

  2. Beautiful memory preserved. I can see you in that pretty little dress and the loving women dressing you.
    A very special moment in time.

  3. Kay,
    I loved this poem. It reminded me of my childhood when my sister and Mama dressed me before the woodstove. I also recall the cold wind whistling around the corners of our red, plank house. This is a wonderful poem!

  4. Vicki, I love the amber in which the flies and our memories are preserved. This time of year is the season of amber for me. Thank you Glenda; my grandmother made sure that I had pretty little dresses, often ones she sewed her herself.
    Brenda Kay, It sounds like we have met each other in the realm of memory and imagination! I was always excited by the sound of the wind whistling around the house. I'll have to tell you the story of my kitten with frostbite and the woodstove in the kitchen. Maybe someday.

  5. Such a wonderful poem. Fully realized and rich images. I also loved what you said about the "wind could take the house I loved and make it sing." Perfect. It makes me want to put more wood in the wood stove.