Some winter nights we skated on the pond.
The milky way above, the ice its own
kind of milky mass below our blades.
Our hands and feet got cold, then colder.
Cloudy angels flew from our mouths.
Stars haloed everyone.
Sometimes we shouted and played red rover
or found an old shoe or a hockey puck
to play a cobbled game. Sometimes we circled
without a word, listening to the quiet
frosty darkness. Now and then
there was a thunderous crack from somewhere
far below and you couldn’t but quake
and wonder at the deep on either side.
I remember now, skating on a lake near where I grew up, feet numb but exhilarated to be out in the cold at night, so this poem speaks to me. It may not resonate with you, but I hope that you might at least get some of the feeling it evokes. Sorbara skillfully curates such clear images that even if you have never skated, you just might feel yourself gliding across the ice.
She sets the scene with the milky way above, the ice its own kind of milky mass below our blades. Hands and feet getting colder, while cloudy angels flew from our mouths. I delight in such images that make me wish I might have thought of them myself. I can hear the shouts of children playing red rover, calling someone over to our side, and of course, the ubiquitous pick-up hockey with no real rules, just lots of enthusiasm.
Then there are the times without words, listening to the quiet / frosty darkness. If you’ve ever heard thick ice cracking, you’ll know what she means about the thunderous crack from somewhere / far below and the heart-stopping sense that the ice might give way to the freezing waters. I’m particularly taken by her ending, how you couldn’t but quake / and wonder at the deep on either side. She offers the possibility of a depth above as well as below that hadn’t occurred to me as a child but which rings true now. Perhaps one of these winter nights you will experience some of this yourself, and if not, you will at least have this poem.
11 thoughts on “Skating by Kate Sorbara”
Good morning to you too Kathryn, you are so welcome.
Gorgeous poem Jan! Like you, memories of skating on winter ponds flooded my mind and warmed my heart! Thank you! 💖
Warm memories of cold fingers and toes 🙂 really captures it doesn’t she. xoxox
I’ve never been a good skater. I remember my dad teaching me to skate in an arena in Pembroke, he holding my hand, me on my bobskates.
I’m the skater who needs a hand to hold on the Rideau canal. Someone to drag me. But I’ve always been fascinated with speed skating. It looks effortless! Unlike life. 😉
I love the imagery in this poem. I felt it all… while standing on the ice at our cottage.
Thank you, dear Jan. Much love to you. xoxo
So glad you were able to feel the sensations she creates for us – as you say, to feel it all while standing on the ice at your cottage, how perfect Lianne. xoxo
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Oh yes, i know that sound! Growing up in northern Illinois we often skated on big ponds and lakes in the winter. I remember my hands getting cold and then colder. I remember the joy of gliding over the ice, of catching a blade on a pebble or a stick. Getting up, skating on. And I remember the heart stopping boom of ice cracking, waiting for the abyss to open. Only once, on a creek did the ice open and my dad went in up to his waist. Shocking but no long term harm done. Cloudy angels flying from our mouths. Thank you for the memory, Jan
Great memories Wendy, must have been frightening in the moment when your dad went in – now that’s cold! Love those cloudy angels! xoxox
Thanks Jan, this is a sweet poem. Skating in open air any time is pure magic! Day or night. I cherish childhood memories of skating on the neighbourhood rink growing up in northern BC in the fifties. I still make a point every winter to put on the blades – which usually involves travelling since I live in Vancouver. Can’t wait to be pack up the old figure skates for a train trip to Saskatoon next month !
Glad to hear this poem tapped into sweet memories for you. Enjoy your opportunity to skate in Saskatoon, should be plenty cold enough 🙂