by Thomas Davis
We drove Grand Mesa’s unpaved, snow-packed roads Around its hairpin curves until the banks Of drifts were high enough to stop the plows. Grandparents, uncles, aunts, and cousins slammed Car doors and shouted so their voices echoed off The slopes and cliffs that soared into the sky. Then “food enough to feed an army,” sleds, Toboggans came from car trunks as the day’s Festivity spilled out into the winter cold. My Dad and Uncle dug into the snow To make a fire with driftwood, branches found Down in the canyon as we’d driven by The stream that gurgled songs beneath the ice. Then, looking down the road toward a bank That lurched uphill before a hairpin curve, The oldest of my cousins laughed and jumped Onto her sled, her head downhill, and slid Like lightning flashed into a coal-black sky: The slope so steep she flew, the hill of white A half mile down as solid as a wall, The road beneath her hard and slick as ice. Her mother, Aunt Viola, laughed to see Her fly toward the snowbank wall as I Could hardly breathe to see the tragedy Unfolding as the sunlight glared into my eyes. My eyes began to hurt. She had to crash Or slam into the wall of snow so hard She wouldn’t be my cousin anymore. But, as she hurtled down toward her doom, She dragged her legs behind the racing sled And turned the blades before she hit the hill, And everybody who had come to watch Began to yell when she rolled off the sled, Popped to her feet and shot her arm into the air. When, after other cousins dared the hill, I hesitated, swallowing to see The downhill slope, my younger brother jumped Ahead of me and joined into the fun. I stood above my sled and felt my heart Quail, staring down toward the distant bank That still seemed solid as a concrete wall. I froze and couldn’t move until my Dad, Behind me, got me on my sled and pushed Me off as cold and snow and light became A blur of flying, flying down the road. I flared my legs behind the hurtling sled And tried to slow down as I turned the blades, The running sound beneath my stomach, snow A cloud of ice as I rolled off the sled And came up, sunk in snow up to my hips, And shouted with my arm up in the air.