I first heard the legend when I was six.
It was winter and the geese had flown past,
a hearth was a room away at all times,
and my sister was visiting; it would be
her last winter with us.
We spent the morning and evening preparing the food,
sneaking glances out the small kitchen windows at the snow,
at first a blinding treescape, but once the sun was gone:
a deep blue brook saturated with the flowing, muted petals
of a thousand trees' successful flowerings.
We gathered then, around the table as was our custom,
and expressed our thankfulness for food and loved ones,
first with words, and then with a consuming quiet.
And soon conversations began.
Grandfather told a story from nowhere
that no one heard coming, beginning as innocent as
golfing with friends. Out of the whorls of conversation,
the lives retold, came suddenly a silence about him.
"They were wading through a swamp," he was saying,
as our unclosable, unmovable eyes followed them through him,
and we felt the silence of everything that was not his voice
tightening around our throats, climbing our necks,
and seeping into the backs of our eyes.
"And they are all dead, now," he concluded,
with a grandfatherly flap of his jaw,
as we young glanced nervously at each other,
our hands folded, the way we had been taught.