barefot in snow.jpg
Burns (You Forgot How Snow Felt on the Skin)
by J.L. Smith

Your toes were painted coral
ten days ago
in a Vegas area nail salon,
where you prepared them
for their last days of freedom,
before you sentenced them
to life behind snow boots.

Your hiking boots,
olive in color,
military camouflage appropriate,
a poor substitute for the snow boots
that you could not find,
because they were tossed
in a cardboard box
by underpaid movers
who were in a hurry
to end the day with a beer,
and marked them garage items,
as they were among the last
items to leave the Arctic
for Maryland six years ago.

Like that old R.E.M. tee
you would not dare get rid of
despite the holes it has—
because you might wear it one day
to paint kitchen cabinets or something—
those boots are somewhere in California
waiting for the ferry to bring them to Alaska.

Still, you feel them taunt you as
you step into the early November snow
that travels up your shins,
wetting your blue jeans,
contracting them to your skin.

Your skin chills,
the snow seeps
and scrapes down your ankle,
searing skin that forgot
how the arctic burned
when it met warm flesh.

Flesh that cried in memory
of coral toes
and sandals,
that were once free to air in the open
without shame.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: This poem is one of many poems written for a chapbook based on the many places I lived as a military spouse. This one, in particular, details the move from Nevada to Alaska, the second time we lived in the arctic.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: J.L. Smith presently lives in Eagle River, Alaska, but is in the process of moving (yet again) to a location that is not yet finalized. By the time she arrived in Nevada, she had managed to live in five different states and one foreign country within an 11-year time span. She hopes one day to stop moving, but admits it does provide a lot of her writing material. Her work has appeared in Dirty Chai, Cirque, Yellow Chair Review, and other journals. See more of her work at her blog

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: A selfie from the last remaining days in our home in Alaska.