Back to Issue Five.

Four Elements



after Gottfried Semper 


I. The Plinth 

Our son and his friends 
are building a snow grotto 
atop ground unyielding as granite. 

Their giggles curl in the wind. 
Candy-colored shovels script 
against an ice floor—something 

accrues with its slick hardening. 
It returns to the children from winter 
to winter—how to decipher 

the handicraft of snow’s blue 
prints. Deep in their holes, 
late potatoes close their eyes. 

II. The Wall 

Farmers tilled their land and hauled the stones, 
harvest of frost heaves, to fence lines. 
Barriers to wandering livestock, markers 
of possession—field stones, flagstone, tie 
stones—extended into lichen-crusted vertebrae: 
atlas of a disappearing landscape. 

III. The Roof 

Never mind the stars. Come 
daylight, take the heliotrope’s 

measure, the sun’s glance 
mirrored in a vast, exact, arc: 

what’s needed: precision: somewhere 
to start: somewhere to be. 

IV. The Hearth 

Wool-capped ladies bring winter 
apples, and tangerines 
in miniature wooden crates. 

The bread is a day away from stale, 
but food bank boxes 
burst with turnips, sweet potatoes, 

skins darkly powdered with local 
farm dirt, beets bloodstain-brown. 
We stow them in an unheated room. 

On the stovetop, cocoa melds 
with condensed milk in a pot 
warming on the burner. 

Small economies: how the sun 
weakens in December, bows 
to evening before the end 

of afternoon.  



Marie Gauthier is the author of Hunger All Inside (Finishing Line Press), and recent poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Poetry Northwest, Salamander, The Common, and elsewhere. She lives with her family in Shelburne Falls, MA, where she works for Tupelo Press and co-curates the Collected Poets Series.