Article excerpt

"Ice" was published with another poem by Ai, "Sleep like a Hammer," in the Spring 1978 issue. AI tells us, "My great great grandmother was an Oklahoma Choctaw and I was trying to imagine a fictional incident in her life, as well as just trying however obliquely to get in touch with my roots, when I wrote the poem, 'Ice.' I was also fulfilling one of my self-imposed promises to the Guggenheim Foundation that I would use some of my fellowship to research my family history and to use that research to write about my family. 'Ice' was published in my book, Killing Floor, in 1979; Killing Floor was the Lamont Poetry Selection for 1978. The poem shared first place for Pushcart Prize IV (1981)."

breaks up in obelisks on the river, as I stand beside your grave. I tip my head back. Above me, the same sky you loved, that shawl of cotton wool, frozen around the shoulders of Minnesota. I'm cold and so far from Texas and my father, who gave me to you. I was twelve, a Choctaw, a burden. A woman, my father said, raising my skirt. Then he showed you the roll of green gingham, stained red, that I'd tried to crush to powder with my small hands. I close my eyes, and it is March, 1866 again. I'm fourteen, wearing a white smock. I straddle the rocking horse you made for me and stroke the black mane cut from my own hair. …