Five Reasons to Love the Long Nights of Winter

This poem is one I wrote maybe a decade ago, but it still expresses something important to me about the beauty, peace, and comfort of this time of year.

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After a bright afternoon’s quickening light
To be cradled by dusk,
Its slowly sit-down darkening

To contemplate the softening outline of the old cat
Curled warm on your grey-trousered lap

To watch the women and men with briefcases and backpacks
Walk from the bus toward darkened houses

To see a glow appear here or there and know
The tired homecomings have begun

To unravel the mysteries of your heart
That can only be glimpsed when the busy sun
Pulls up its thick shadows
And the arms of the evening encompass all

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Ark

All night the wind filled with snow howls against our walls.
What happens to the animals,
or people still outside
I do not know.

Small ship on a vast ocean our house sails alone through the gale.
Carries us fretting to the borders of morning,
the furnace and the radio
land ahoy.

~~~

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With its secret dances

Come in, with your body
and its whispered dreams

I will not breathe a word

come in, bring its needling anguish,
its yokes and shackles, the chains
and burdens that make it stumble

its tears that stream without permission

bring in your body
with its fine, secret dances in meadows
and under full moons

the songs it sings while diving
for pearls and the bursting
of its lungs as sun pours in heavenly shafts

deep as the bottom of your thought

bring its tattered edges and frayed cords

lie it down and we will mend
what we can and tuck in the rest
smoothing the weave of its priceless fabric

you shall not leave undone

bring in your body

~~~

One by one,

One by one,
winter lifts its long fingers from the deep freeze
where they have grown, collecting crystals
month by month

with its diamond file
sharpens them precisely then slips out to
test an edge on the skin of our necks
and back it goes

sitting in the shimmering dark
wearing the glimmer of a smile
as it hones and shapes, and the wind
comes calling

~~~

Small offerings

The night’s small offerings to the road
are easy to lift: wrapped in a leaf
or carried on a bier of two stout twigs
an empty drink cup in the ditch will do
if a scoop is needed

Their still, often neat bodies
of feathers and beaks
of claws and fur
tiny red stick legs and translucent wings
or simple uncoiled lengths
finally agree
to settle
deep into the long grass
and wait for the seasons.

But some
if I come too late
cannot be pried from the asphalt
black as a clean slate
they are too small
the load that felled them
too exact:
these, after a few soft words, I leave
their diminishing flesh and precise skeletons
recording history

~~~

My sleep is like

pearls
on a worn string

slipping down the line from one
hour to the next

of jewelled slumber but in between
a frayed cord of anxious waking,

hot turning, grasping for a lifeline that
my sweaty touch disintegrates, dreams

clattering to the floor
and here I am again, awake

~~~

The fabric of the world

in the hammock
in the shade
in the clearing
in the woods

with me
a small mosquito, two birds nearby
a shushing wind

the bleats of sheep
car on the road
woodpecker knocking:
rooster crows

30 feet above my head
four maples meet and swing their greens
in a blue sky the sun shines through,
a dappled pattern on my knees

the buzz of bees
the smell of hay
in the hammock
in the shade

the fabric of the world
envelops us
in the clearing
in the woods

~~~