This week’s poem, Helene McGlauflin’s “Root Cellar,” opens a beam of summer sun put by for the winter months. I love this poem’s journey below, which feels both mythic and deeply personal, and I relish how the speaker finally finds herself lit from within.

McGlauflin is a writer, counselor and yoga teacher. She has published two collections of poetry: “Tiny Sabbath” (2010) and “Teacher, I Honor You” (2016). She is also the author of many articles found in books, magazines and small presses and the book “Calm and Alert: Yoga and Mindfulness Practices to Teach Self-regulation and Social Skills to Children” (2018). She lives with her husband, Bruce, in Brunswick.

Root Cellar
By Helene McGlauflin

The smell of soil reaches you first as you descend,
face brushed by cobwebs, hand steadied on rail
even the musty darkness is a comfort in this
place dug by the strong, committed to
staving off starvation in a womb of earth. You keep
cheery company here with carrots, turnips, potatoes
pickles and in one corner, mason jars of light

You remember storing them that high summer day
when the sun shone without interruption on water
scattering small petals of light over the surface,
twinklings multiplying the longer you looked, your
face welcoming a certain warm blush. Breathing in
you filled, then covered all the inner jars you could,
sealing in this living luminosity
reassured it could be stored for those dark days before
solstice when every cell is keening over the loss of light

Moth-drawn to corner you take jar in hand, eager for the pop
of broken seal, lift rim to mouth, pour the precious preserves
down, in, coursing through every vein until each cell is lit
with a confidence that as cold and despair lurk outside, you
will never starve if you can descend, return to your store,
sit in a corner among jars in the gloaming, trust the quiet,
the silent light

Megan Grumbling is a poet and writer who lives in Portland. Deep Water: Maine Poems is produced in collaboration with the Maine Writers & Publishers Alliance. “Root Cellar” copyright 2016 by Helene McGlauflin, reprinted from Teacher, I Honor You: Poems Honoring Young People, Parents and Teachers (Finishing Line Press 2016). It appears by permission of the author.

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