Elizabeth Lalley

The cottage had been moved in a winter of record lows.
It was pulled across the ice, between mountains of snow that creaked in the wind.
That low hum of life beneath the rough and broken sheet, keeping algae, minnows,
and snails at rest. My uncle restored the cottage, a century later, while we, the others,
lived in the carriage house—a dollhouse, a thimble. A cottage
that once housed horses, animals I pretended I could still smell as I tried to sleep,
smelling only wind and lake in the creases of my pillowcase. We heard a man
call his dog every night without shame of his non-life. My father searched
for doubt, but couldn’t find it. A woman cooked at the stove, waving to me
without hand or body. In the winters, the ice groaned
as though the lake was breaking free. Our cottage groaned
with wind. A mad cardinal rammed itself against the dining room window,
regularly, for years. A nun walked through the cottage,
telling the ghosts it was no longer their home. Now they walk between the cottages,
back and forth, a cardinal soaring and diving in their dust.

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