Joe Cottonwood

In the hot tub we soak,
she and I deliciously au naturel  
sipping wine under stars among
snowy mountain silhouettes.
Quel luxe! The air so silent, so cold,
our breath crackles coming in,
then floats out in frosty clouds.

Fully tenderized, we step dripping
onto the deck where fingertips
on the doorknob discover
a.) frigid metal, and
b.) locked out.
A self-locking door!
Towels and clothes left inside for warmth.
Barefoot in snow we try each window, and try again.
Our bodies are steaming.

Already we shiver.
“Maybe the neighbors have a key,” I say.
We are on a cul-de-sac of four cabins,
all dark. Would they rise out of bed,
turn on the porch light and open
the door to a birthday-suited man
covered in goosebumps,
shaking, hopping ankle-deep in snow?
They could call the police
while we freeze to death
because where is the nearest cop
in the Sierra Nevada at midnight?
And what is the jail sentence
for public inadvertent nudity?
Already I can imagine frost-bite
in delicate regions.

“I’ll have to break a window,” I say.
“They’re triple-glazed,” she says, “please
be careful.” But she is shivering, gasping.
“I’ll stand back and throw a rock,” I say,
and do, with strength I didn’t know I had
heaving a hunk of stone the size of a football
which makes an astonishing sound
like a gunshot of glass.

“Watch your step,” she says.
In the pitch-black I can’t tell shards from
pine cones but at first footfall something
pricks, draws blood, as a
floodlight erupts from the cabin next door.
A young man stands in the doorway
wearing only a sweatshirt (Nevada Wolf Pack)
while holding a baseball bat,
and then a young woman’s voice
from behind him says “Put away
the bat, Deion, and help them.”
The woman steps out wearing flip-flops,
a bathrobe, and says, “You don’t look like
the bad guys. Come in and get warm.”

And that is how we meet our new friends
Deion and Kimani who are just normal folks
because, really,
wouldn’t you do the same?

Author's Commentary: This actually happened to my wife and I, locked out naked at midnight in the Sierra. Then in transforming the experience into poetry, as a dues-paying carrier of the poetic license, I changed the actual July experience to January. But hey, even in July the nights are cold at 8,000 feet.

Joe Cottonwood

I take the boy to his first movie,
Bedknobs and Broomsticks,
a stinker but he doesn’t know.
He laughs at the silly stuff, enjoys the spectacle.
So do I.

Driving home I see the landscape through his eyes:
    sun setting over El Camino Real
    taillights, neon
    strip mall America.
As with the movie, he watches open-mouthed, enthralled.
Life can be simple if you accept it.
He won’t, soon.
I hope.

Author's Commentary: My son was two and a half in 1979 when I took him to this, his first movie. The movie dates it. But the experience for any parent can be the same, even today. And that silly movie is still out there.

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Joe Cottonwood has worked in the building trades — carpenter, plumber, electrician — for most of his life. By night he is the author of nine published novels, a book of poetry, several songs and many podcasts. His most recent book is 99 Jobs: Blood, Sweat, and Houses. His poems appear in journals worldwide. If you need help rebuilding your front porch, he would welcome your call.