Cindy Buchanan: “Little Cabin in the Woods”


Once there was a cabin built from white spruce
peeled with a drawknife held in the calloused hands
of an Italian immigrant who knew nothing
about building anything. I, his new wife’s child,
collected the bent nails he threw to the ground,
pulled fibers from his discarded cigarette butts,
ground his smell into the dirt with my thumbs.

The cabin went up log by log over long Alaskan
summer days. By fall, our heat came from a barrel stove,
water from a creek. I thumbed through picture books
by yellow lantern light. On nights when the cold moon
made patterns on the puncheon floor and the howl of wolves
made me tremble, my mother would slip into my bed.
I’d fall asleep with her warm breath upon my hair.

There had been a past. I remembered kneading dough
for cinnamon rolls with my grandmother, feeling
my grandfather’s hand on top of mine as we pushed
the round knob of his truck’s gear stick. But now
was sometime other. I learned to straddle logs
while they were sawed into firewood, duck slaps,
not ask about before, keep up on snowshoes
to collect rabbits from my stepfather’s snares.

Summer rabbits, brown as my teddy bear, were skinned
and cleaned, but the frozen white ones—a thin red line
where the snare wire cut through fur—were hung
over the stove to thaw. At night, they dangled,
spinning slowly in the dark. Once, I saw my stepfather
slit the fur and yank it down over the rabbit’s legs.
The fur stuck at the paws, the way my voice stuck
in my throat. Years later, I find an old photograph.
My face is turned upwards to the sky.

Cindy Buchanan has had work published in Chestnut Review, Evening Street Review, The MacGuffin, Hole in the Head Review, and other journals. Her first chapbook is Learning to Breathe (Finishing Line Press, 2023).

Table of Contents | Next Page