Where should I have been? In college,
my first winter, the afternoons I took
the underground tunnels toward the halls
and turned instead for the basement
bookstore or the theological seminary—
its walls lined with stones from ancient civilizations,
a cuneiform from the Arabian Sea, a block from
a Jaffa minaret, a script chiseled in Greek.
It was the time of year you could freeze
outside, exposed to cold, the skin was frostbit
in minutes. Underground, the pipes overhead
hissed as I took the stairs up to the chapel.
In the sanctuary, I repeated a childhood prayer
I knew some of the words to. I’d skip
a lecture and want to skip them all—
Away from home for the first time, grotesques
marked the gates at the campus entrances,
I breathed the must of old buildings,
I walked around with a sequestered feeling
in my chest. I could see from my residence hall,
Lake Michigan, crystalline by degrees,
until ice overtook it completely.
Chanda Feldman is the author of Approaching the Fields (LSU). Her most recent poems appear in Crazyhorse, Poetry, and Southern Review. She is an assistant professor of creative writing at Oberlin College.
The Image archive is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts.