A Refrigerator Magnet

By Peter Halstead

Tonight a random stuck-on world
Shades the freezer’s blizzard white
With magnetic fields that fate has hurled
Against the frigid Bakelite

Where our pasted panorama sinks
Into a blank aquarium
That human hopes and juices drinks,
Whose arctic demons clunk and hum

Behind the beach they’re staring through—
A window to the out-of-doors—
Where gravity’s vast glue
Opens up our frozen stores.


I tried to keep the sink imagery in the rewrite—that is, the idea of hopes sinking and spirits draining—while eliminating the sink itself, which led me into the concept of the refrigerator’s blank white aquarium, on which magnets swim like fish, contradicting the mechanical frozen despair inside with a window to a better, bluer world outside, as indeed the real world must seem to frozen food, when the door opens and the chilly peas see for the first time a summer breeze or a tree, the way anyone frozen with despair might suddenly realize that the world outside doesn’t care, and has gone on with spring anyhow.
With all the optimism that any loco parentis hopes will subliminally be taken to heart, I wrote this for Liza, who expressed enthusiasm for all sorts of exotic fridge magnets in her first house, with its kitchen and deck opening onto the summery bay beyond the GE’s wintry doors.
I was sorry to sacrifice from the first two versions the image of the fridge door’s sky to the deeper image of an aquarium.
Comparing the three versions, as I hope some obsessive scholar will one day do, the fridge becomes darker, scarier, making its redemption through the magic of a magnetic appliqué that much more cathartic.

Tippet Alley
Bastille Day, 2002

San Francisco
February 23rd and 25th, 2003

September 27th, 2008