You layer wool against cold
to go view clots of inlet pan ice
plying loud salt slush
in raw winter light.
Low sun goes early daily
but takes its pale time.
You’re careful on frozen ground
that will hurt you if you fall.
Cold warps the image
of far mountains, warps the very light
forcing itself through distance
to our faces.
Overhead, jets hurtle off the bluff,
sounding pained or pissed.
They launch for Asia and Europe over cottonwoods
that shed leaves an age ago, revealing nests.
Midday ripens straight into evening
this time of year. Evenings quicken here
where elsewheres get their afternoons.
Water keeps time, not the sun.
Anyone could not go home.
Anyone could leap onto passing ice
and ride the noise toward the gulf.
Anyone could gather the dark,
soak their voice inside the white floe noise.
Each winter the dark replants us,
thumbs us into the loam of long night.
Snow swaddles houses
till late morning reveals them
with worn gingham light.
Winter’s black chamber quiets us,
splits us with auroras, road-salt stars.
The north pitches on each year
into lucid dark, gelid sunrises.
And now the brindled back of light—
the slow stammer of days that stretch,
afternoons that yawn into slow evenings.
Summer will be a warm immersion,
but for now, it is the face of a mask
holding itself up near our faces.
We look in through its eyeholes
and glimpse spring like a photograph.
Out beyond sight, cold rivers trickle
threading dark winter
incanting winter solstice
the year’s center of gravity
we reel around
alive in the cold
and all of our homemade warmth.
Jeremy Pataky is the author of Overwinter (University of Alaska Press). His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Black Warrior Review, Colorado Review, South Dakota Review, The Southeast Review, and others. Jeremy earned an MFA at the University of Montana. He is publisher of Porphyry Press and Edible Alaska and migrates between McCarthy and Anchorage, Alaska.