Your aunt found the sap boiled away
to a maple patina in the galvanized pan
and us, on duty, in the lean-to, unbuttoned,
flustered. Hands long as a man’s head, her black
boots, men’s size ten. She made a clatter to say
she’d arrived. Through a chink in the wall
you saw her knit cap, her buckets heavy,
full. She dashed the cold sap, gathered
from cans as she came through the trees,
into the forty-gallon trough. By then we were mostly
dressed. “Keep an eye on it this time,” she said,
and steam coiled up around her.
This spring the lean-to slumps toward the brook.
You can see gold tunnels in the wood, frayed punk
at the log-ends, and here a porcupine
gnawed for salt. You left town. I stayed.
And your aunt stooping to pick up our work
gloves, too near the fire, and toss them over, whistling
as she swung away up the bank and never told
about two girls in the woods, also still there.
Nancy White has published three poetry collections: Sun, Moon, Salt (winner of the Washington Prize), Detour, and Ask Again Later. My poems have appeared in Beloit Poetry Review, FIELD, New England Review, Ploughshares, Rhino, and many others. She is editor-in-chief at The Word Works in Washington, D. C. and teach at SUNY Adirondack in upstate NY.