"-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.01 Transitional//EN"> Frigg | Spring/Summer 2023 | The Sugar Maples | Shannon K. Winston
artwork for Shannon K. Winston's poem The Sugar Maples

The Sugar Maples
Shannon K. Winston

I name the sugar maples that I pass on the train.
               Snowflakes speckle the window.

Like the finest salt is how the internet describes
               the calcifications in my right breast.

But I think of sand when my nephew tells me
               about the calcifications around his heart.

I will build you a sandcastle there, I promise him.
               In freezing temperatures, sugar maples suck sap

back into their veins; their syrup crystalizes
               on the outside of their bodies, which harden with age.

My grandmother has plaque in her brain.
               A white residue seals off her memory.

She’s forgotten my name. So, when she tells me
               the story of an unnamed woman in an unnamed

city who hoists two hundred pounds on her shoulders
               to regain the bone mass she lost

when she stopped eating, my grandmother might be
               describing a close friend or a stranger.

But what does it matter?
               I pretend her name is Atlas.

I give the sugar maples names, too:
               Catherine, Carna, and Luke.

They extend their bony fingers.
               Their rigid bodies are glazed with frost.

Inside my breast, I imagine ice and debris—
               the smallest flecks of chilled, white grief.

Shannon K. Winston’s Comments

How can we understand parts of our body we can’t see? And how can metaphors, in this case of the sugar maples, help us process an uncertain diagnosis?

Table of Contents

Frigg: A Magazine of Fiction and Poetry | Issue 61 | Spring/Summer 2023