We drive two miles to a postcard
pond: gray glint perimeter, slate
landscape broken only by a few blades
of yellowed grass, too stubborn to grasp
they will not grow in the cold.
Vitek glides away as soon as we reach
the ice, but Petr stays and steadies me
while I lace my skates. Petr is patient.
He clasps my elbow, explains how to shift
weight hip to hip while pressing forward
into the bitter whistle of February’s breath.
With each push and plunge, I crumple
in the knees. Petr’s by my side until
I can guide my blades into well-worn
figure eights. He leaves only to let me
balance on my own. His voice has the
same tender tones as my dad when
he taught me how to play pool,
to not grow angry when I couldn’t
figure out the right angles for a shot.
My thoughts wander so far that when
I remember where I am, I lose
balance and collapse. My nerves
scatter in a storm of pulse and pinch,
back flat to ice, black behind my lids.
Petr and Vitek skate over, pull me
up. “It is not so bad,” Petr says.
“Your first time falling could have been
much worse.” We glide back to the dirt
and I wonder if this is how men learn
to be gentle to themselves, by being
gentle to others first.
Emily Paige Wilson is an MFA candidate and graduate teaching assistant at the University of North Carolina Wilmington. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Adroit Journal, Hayden’s Ferry Review, PANK and The Raleigh Review, among others. Her work has been awarded the Emma Howell Memorial Poetry Prize, a Kert Green and a Brauer Fellowship, and has placed in competitions held by North Carolina State University and The Indiana Review. She rules her life like a fine skylark and is working on her crow pose.