Photo © Joseph Hesch, 2011
The day opened with so much
of my little world wearing
a white gesso, waiting
for men to paint their marks
upon the pristine scene.
With the huff of their grunts
hanging frozen in the air
if only for a second,
with the chuff of their shovels
opening a wrinkle in the unsullied,
with their blowers snorting smoke
and throwing the fallen pieces
back toward the gray sky,
only to see them descend again
as Nature, with great gravity,
laughs at their puny efforts.
Then along come the plows,
with their dead, unblinking eyes
lighting the way, to gouge the skin of winter,
wide channels of black and brown,
made worse by throwing salt into its wounds.
But out back, no shovel,
nor agent of man’s need
to improve Nature by sullying
its beauty, has left its scar.
It’s too cold even for the deer
to place their punctuation
on the virgin page.
Perhaps tomorrow, the crows will be
the first to write Nature’s script
as they drop in twos upon the snow,
quotation marks for the Winter artist
who prefers to paint in one color,
whistle and hum a tuneless tune,
and speak loud without saying a word.
The town’s turned all white
with the first December snow —
Useless to fight, I know
I awoke to find
the ground wrapped in swaddling clothes —
Snowy rind. Red nose
the backyard an empty page —
Snow in my boot – rage
Christmas weeks away,
the new tree arrayed with lights —
I pray. Fam’ly fights
Santa doesn’t come,
to some kids in my old ‘hood —
Bum, they were e’en good
What if ol’ Christmas
didn’t come around one year?
Bad business, I fear
Shoveled all morning
and now my back’s all janky.
Warning! I’m cranky!
Because of my current creative speed-bumps, I thought I’d go back to the start of it all for Poet Joe–haiku. Of course, knowing me, you’d expect at least a little wrinkle. Yeah, I tried to rhyme the first two lines within the five measly syllables of the final line. Mission (sorta) accomplished.
The north wind leans against the pines,
shouldering them away from
the snow squalls while it shoves me
back inside, hiding from
the 25 minuses it pushes, too.
It’s the inevitable of winter
here in the upper right corner
of your screen.
Sun swears it’s the same
that cozies the bottom margin
of the Land of the Free, but that’s
just more election-year politicking.
“You can trust me
for all your warming needs,” he promises.
It’s so cold, even windblown weeds
shiver, some of their leaves jumping off
and heading south, where folks say
the plusses outweigh these minuses.
I don’t think I could live with myself,
though, where the natives wear parkas
when it’s 50.
In the afternoon, the cardinals called
from one side of the road to the other,
and back again, in their scarlet on white
notes of winter discontent.
I walked between the call and response
of the two red bluesmen,
each pining for something they felt,
not knowing a definitive why,
other than “I hafta.”
To my left, I heard the song again,
and then the drive and dip flight
toward my right of the late winter player.
Toward what? Did it matter?
Snow began to fall and the song faded
among the maples.
I whistled something like
the cardinal’s song among the flakes
along my way home.
On the snowy shoulder of a birch
out front of the house, I saw him,
his head moving in twitchy turns
with my twitchy air.
He corrected my pronunciation
and flew off, disappearing in the wash
of white surrounding us. I dutifully
brushed snow from the doorway
and wondered what it’d be like
to stop pining, to feel something
other than cold, and know why
I wanted to continue singing.
Maybe just because “I hafta.”
The shadows on the snow are blue,
I think. Are they shivering cold
or shaking in the wind lying there
on that white expanse left unbroken all winter?
I’m sure I’d be blue if I went all cursive
on that pristine page. Instead,
I sit here in an off-gray pallor,
the dermatological equivalent of
an inside voice, while I interview shadows,
present and past, outside my double-paned
Emily Dickinson-autograph model world view.
An orphan orange leaf races blindly across
the tree shadows, like it’s frantic to
be gathered up in their arms again,
while I gather all these
different hues of blues,
all the azures and ultramarines,
cobalts and cyans, sorrows and desolations,
and scatter them like leaves
of complimentary colors across
this snowfield beneath my hand.
The shadows are growing longer now,
wider and darker, too, turning
to indigo and eventually, I would guess,
to midnight, when they’ll be near-black,
mourning the passing of this
sun-bright day, when I could sit
and compare all my blues to theirs
and not once feel sad about.
No, not even once.
In its latest relationship,
ice stays the silent type,
until it cracks a sinister smile
on its baby-smooth face,
hissing a warning
to come no closer.
It’s a devoted lover.
The cold-hearted river’s
only too willing to let ice
lie to you behind its glassy stare.
It’ll ignore you if you ask,
while faithful ice keeps
the river’s secret ways.
But eventually the waiting water
breaking the silence of winter,
pushing aside its intimate,
forcing it from its bed,
battering the secret-keeper
while it rushes down
to bully more than just ice
and the shore.
Photo by Heather Grace Stewart
Sun’s face on white
x-rays winter’s condition.
Terminal, I hope.
But the frigid old
just won’t let go.
I’m no doctor, but
just look at that angiogram
silhouette of birch, dear.
Little red droplets
on its fingertips
are your cue to skidoo.
There’s a verdant virgin
waiting on this room
and she’s got all the
boys’ fancies turning to,
you know, love…
and golf and baseball
and girls’ bare,
like the beautiful branches
of that white birch
you’re clinging to.
Just let go, babe.
Go to the light.