Children Sleeping Out, August
Afternoon. The beech leaves motionless.
The morning breeze has abandoned us,
gone somewhere to wait out this play
of heat and hush.
Skies threatened an hour ago, and thunder
thumped over the mountain like a drumbeat.
Now there’s only that whir in the air cicadas
and mosquitoes make.
The children too are laid low. Drained
of their desire for bicycles, banter, water.
Waiting for the first move of whatever will
in a month like this.
There are times when the counting down
of the hours and minutes in a day comes
as a relief. The longing to let go as strong
as to keep.
So, we rise, walk to the meadow. Against our
shins the touch of grasshoppers and grass stems.
And come to the place. Level and without stones.
Out in the open.
The house looks less like a refuge from the hill.
We each take a corner of the tent and raise
the poles, shake the sides, and stake it down.
It is still too hot,
and we are slow and sweating, but there is talk.
The pecking order that never seems to end.
The tarp floor smells of New Hampshire.
As old as the hills.
The son I told to bring the broom sweeps
the dried grass and insects out the front flap,
and it’s as if that very act makes the air itself
move from somewhere to here.
A squirrel scampers across a branch in the woods.
A chipmunk squeaks on a stone, and birds
overhead wing flocked and fast. Evening breeze,
the day changing with us.
In time the sun goes down and stars come out.
Food comes up from the house. Sleeping bags
and blankets lay on the tent floor like overlapping
borders of nations.
There is no light to read by, so I tell them a story
about the dog I had when I was a boy.
And when I’m finished coyotes yip and howl
from the summit.
The youngest is afraid. The oldest tells her they’re far
away and won’t come into the meadow. I wonder
out loud if it’s coyotes, and begin the story
of the Monadnock wolves.
The shepherds who herded sheep on the slopes.
Farmers who built the walls we pass in the woods.
And the wolves who lived on the mountain
a long time ago.
Shepherds and farmers both set fire to the hills
To kill off the wolves. These children have seen
The bald eroded summit. The caves we pass.
Never a wolf though.
And I ask them. Coyotes tonight? Or the ghosts
of the Monadnock wolves, crying still, voices
moving through the night like stars,
and the way that wind will.
Winner of the 2021 Poetry Chapbook Contest
Andrew Krivak is the author of three novels, a previous chapbook of poems, and two works of nonfiction. His debut novel, The Sojourn, was a 2011 National Book Award finalist and winner of both the Dayton Literary Peace Prize for fiction and the Chautauqua Prize. His second novel, The Signal Flame, was a finalist for the Chautauqua Prize. His most recent novel, The Bear, received the Banff Mountain Book prize for fiction and was also a finalist for the Chautauqua Prize. His chapbook Islands: Poems was published by The Slapering Hol press in 1999. As a scholar and a writer of nonfiction, Krivak is the editor of The Letters of William Carlos Williams to Edgar Irving Williams, 1902-1912, which won the Louis Martz prize for scholarly research on William Carlos Williams, and the author of the memoir A Long Retreat: In Search of a Religious Life. Ghosts of the Monadnock Wolves will be his second short volume of poems. His new novel Like the Appearance of Horses is forthcoming in 2023. Krivak lives with his wife and three children in Somerville, Massachusetts, and Jaffrey, New Hampshire. Please visit his website at www.AndrewKrivak.com.