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Poor Counsel, a poem by Karly Vance

Poor Counsel

I cannot tell you

If ice, when it’s thin and blooming 

Is like a window pane;

If, when you are very still,

You can see walleye and pike

Darting in the dull deep.

I cannot ask you

If ice, when it is thick,

Can hold in any sound.

Mouth to ear, mouth to mouth I hear

It is remarkable how jealous 

Even small lakes can be,

How whole the seal.

I cannot warn you

How to know when the lake

Will become a tired old woman

Sweeping piles of

Ice or rock or bone

Onto the shoulder of the shore 

I cannot teach you 

How to find the right place

To cut a hole in the ice.

How even to begin? 

What blade can control the cut?

I hear that ice tears like skin


And heals like a warm shore


Karly Vance grew up in Bay City, Michigan and studied writing at Hope College. Her writing has been published in journals including Common Ground Review, Dunes Review, Midwest Quarterly, and Madison Review. She lives with her husband and son in the Chicago area.