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 octopusmagazine.com. He is the Acquisitions Editor for the University of Alaska Press.