Two Poems by James Engelhardt

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Boreal Valentine

Dana bends too far over the coffee table,
back cantilevered painfully as she colors
the love birds for Wendy’s preschool cards,
and the girl herself carefully places
one butterfly sticker on top of another

precisely off-balance, like the snow
outside—so cold that disrobing is work.

I remember budding trees, crocuses,
the glossy green nubs of daffodil beds
among the hay-drab yards of neighbors
and the smell of something like rot,
something like life seeping coolly down
from the mountain forests and into school.

But I’m developing a love of white and black,
of snow and spruce cutting sky—stars or dawn,
the streaming lights, or blue day opening
a wider eye as we each grow older, as Wendy
learns to lean in like her mother and write
the spindles and shoots of her name.



Wintering in the Place

She wakes to a day that seems colder,
her hip stiff, the sun shifted some small degree
rising a little north, gaining a little more height
like a pail handle held at this angle, now that.

A cup of tea, a short morning,
a walk around the neighborhood
for health, yes, so when her daughter calls
she’ll hear the shock of the day’s chill
across the ether to someplace cornstalked.

She knows the ravens don’t wait for her,
croak and woodblock their calls for something else
not her. They do not wait for her
and her fur anorak, she brings along
no food for birds, no food from her.

A heavy spatter of snow splashing
as a ptarmigan pulls hard into the air,
like a pear tossed from one hand settling quickly
into the next, a safe bank a few yards away.

The woman and bird square off the block, five
left turns, then six, black tail tips,
mukluk shuffle, mittens on door alone
and why not think of chicken, a nice roast,
a phone call, quick sundown and long starlight.




James Engelhardt’s poems have appeared in many journals, including North American Review, Laurel Review, Hawk & Handsaw, and Painted Bride Quarterly. His ecopoetry manifesto is at He is the Acquisitions Editor for the University of Alaska Press.

Read poetry by James Engelhardt also appearing in Issue 27.

Photo credit: Elf-8 via photopin cc is the world’s first online journal of place, publishing a rich mix of literature, artwork, case studies, and more since 1997.