Back to Issue Five.

Four Elements


after Gottfried Semper 

I. The Plinth

Our son and his friends
are building a snow grotto
atop ground unyielding as granite.

Their giggles curl in the wind.
Candy-colored shovels script
against an ice floor—something

accrues with its slick hardening.
It returns to the children from winter
to winter—how to decipher

the handicraft of snow’s blue
prints. Deep in their holes,
late potatoes close their eyes.


II. The Wall

Farmers tilled their land and hauled the stones,
harvest of frost heaves, to fence lines.
Barriers to wandering livestock, markers
of possession—field stones, flagstone, tie
stones—extended into lichen-crusted vertebrae:
atlas of a disappearing landscape.

III. The Roof

Never mind the stars. Come
daylight, take the heliotrope’s

measure, the sun’s glance
mirrored in a vast, exact, arc:

what’s needed: precision: somewhere
to start: somewhere to be.


IV. The Hearth

Wool-capped ladies bring winter
apples, and tangerines
in miniature wooden crates.

The bread is a day away from stale,
but food bank boxes
burst with turnips, sweet potatoes,

skins darkly powdered with local
farm dirt, beets bloodstain-brown.
We stow them in an unheated room.

On the stovetop, cocoa melds
with condensed milk in a pot
warming on the burner.

Small economies: how the sun
weakens in December, bows
to evening before the end

of afternoon.


Marie Gauthier is the author of Hunger All Inside (Finishing Line Press), and recent poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Poetry Northwest, Salamander, The Common, and elsewhere. She lives with her family in Shelburne Falls, MA, where she works for Tupelo Press and co-curates the Collected Poets Series.