One of my favorite walks from my home in Rockport, Maine is to Lily Pond. It’s a local landmark: the ice from Lily Pond was once so famous for its clarity that it was harvested and shipped throughout the United States—reportedly even as far away as the Caribbean.
Four years ago, on April 1, 2017, a light snow began to fall over Lily Pond. This year, it’s warmer— throughout March, the temperature often rose to 40 or even 50 degrees Fahrenheit. But that year, like many years in Midcoast Maine, March was cool, so much of the surface of area lakes and ponds was still crusted over with what we call spring ice. Although it appears strong—unbreakable—spring ice is inherently unstable, usually in areas where a dark mass—a stone or log, for instance—lies beneath the surface of the water, absorbing heat from the sun. Walking on it is therefore dangerous: one never knows when it might break.
As I watched the snow fall that morning, something about it—perhaps its gentleness—brought to mind my maternal grandfather, Francesco. He’s the child standing in the photograph above. His baby sister sits atop the little table. His mother, Marta, is the woman in the center. Growing up, I was told only one story of my Sicilian bisnonna, the story of her death only a few years after she immigrated to New York and this photograph was taken.
Snow, memory, the darkness beneath the surface of a pond, a lake, or a life… somehow my musings that morning led to this poem. It was published in 2018 in Balancing Act 2: An Anthology of Poems by Fifty Maine Women, from Littoral Books.
Spring Ice on Lily Pond
Today the ice broke
on Lily Pond.
Early April yet the snow
falls silently as ash
from some remote
white dwarf star
dressing the jagged wound
and all the memory of winter.
A century ago men cut
the ice on Lily Pond with giant blades
and hauled it boxed in railroad cars to distant
states and cities perhaps Brooklyn
carried it in horse-drawn carts
to avenues and alleys
swanky bars and tenement
kitchens one perhaps where Marta
mia bisnonna washed the breakfast dishes
placed the milk and butter in the icebox
knelt and kissed her son and daughter
sent them out into the streets and rose
alone and felt her numbed heart give way
and leaving the door ajar climbed
silently the long back stairs and let her cold
and shining body fall.
Today my mother died
her son penciled in a book
that I still carry in my memory
and page and page as April
breaks the ice on Lily Pond.