Midnight on Truckee Lake

. . . all are entirely out of meat but a little we have our hides are nearly all eat up but with Gods help spring will soon smile upon us.Diary of Patrick Breen, one of the Donner Party, Feb. 10, 1847

Tonight the air is warm and clear enough
to step outside and watch the stars
above the frozen lake, silvering a path
across the mountains, bright and hard
like certainty, like luck, and oh, I taste them almost,

almost suck their white-hot marrow, gnaw
the fat-slick bones of Ursa Major, gorge myself
on wishes: chubby wood mice, early thaw,
that the next to die will have sufficient flesh
and God will look away.

A new full-bellied cloud drifts in,
greys out the constellations.
Heaven still shows kindness, in its way:
the panic hunger throb subsides
to lulling lapping hollowness.

Don’t think too much or plan
too far ahead, and learn to like
the boiled oxhide jelly.
A body cannot bear to want
so many things, so much.


Emmaline Silverman lives in Maryland and works in the library science field. Her poems have appeared in Kentucky ReviewRust+MothPankhearst Fresh, and elsewhere in print and online.

Silverman_photo.jpg