Poems

Keeping Cool Old-School with Lake Ice

From last week’s Concord Monitor, here’s a story about how Rockywold-Deephaven Camps in my town of Holderness, New Hampshire harvests lake ice in the winter for use in old-school iceboxes all summer long.

Ice harvest on Squam Lake

I have been lucky enough to witness the ice harvest and be dazzled by the immensity, ingenuity, history and beauty of the whole process. It inspired me to write a poem, “This Other Lake,” which appears, along with a number of other poems inspired by rural New Hampshire life, in my 2017 collection, Beating the Bounds. (Hobblebush Books)

This Other Lake

–Rockywold-Deephaven camps

We go down to the cove in February,
when Squam’s locked up tight with thick lake ice,
early in the morning, on short notice,
because the decision just got made –
the right weather, the right thickness of ice,
and everybody ready to work.

Walk onto the frozen surface with me,
to where the saws will whine and spark flakes
into the bright air, releasing buoyant cakes of ice
into an ever-enlarging rectangle of newly opened water.
I want you to know we call them cakes, not blocks.

In the necessary sharp cold, we’ll watch them
prod and herd the cakes using only pike poles—
down through the cut channel, to the winch,
to the truck, and then let’s tramp
to the old ice houses and watch them unload
and stack the slick cakes to the ceilings.

Over two days, they’ll uncap
three football fields’ worth of lake.
And then, after the ice houses are filled,
the lake will be left to itself again; the cold
will be free to knit, crystal by crystal,
a new skin across the breach.

In July, someone will sit on a screen porch
looking over this cove, sipping lemonade
kept frosty in the icebox,
where a one hundred and fifty pound slab of winter
slowly releases its long-ago chill.

This is how we have, for over a hundred years,
traveled through time, back to February;
this is how the cold will transport us
from that lake, with its shimmering, lapping waters,

back to this other one,
still white and locked up tight,
waiting for us to break it open.

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