Take To Flight, February

Go! Leave! Take to flight, February,
for you linger overlong
with such a darksome mood, chill and airy
that sings too mournful a song.

The shortest among monthly brethren,
but not short enough, forsooth,
as we wait for the Spring to set in
and you cling by nail and tooth.

It’s true they stole from you a few days
to add to their collection,
but no one wants you here anyways,
and would rather you had none.

You are the Georgia of Winter days,
the state I hate driving through
on my way to the Gulf’s golden bays—
Florida without the view.

We are all tired of this bleak Winter
and its cold dark solemn hours
so we’ll be in the garden center,
looking at the Spring flowers.

Fix It Good

A winter sky like sheets of linen
lit by pallid, dimming candlelight,
the wooly clouds gauzy and thin when
the sun descends, a wan, whisk-whipped white
fractured by the barren, black branches
of the old crooked, wind-shaken oak
and the cold evening light that blanches
the distant knobs, while the wispy smoke
slithers serpentinely all across
fields jagged with broken stalks of corn
now harvested and sold at a loss
for those whose labors have thereby borne
but a decrepit bloodline and name,
and the colonial house of brick
standing upright, despite ancient shame
and the tottering wood, rick to rick—
bitter wormwood and ant-eaten oaks
which, when burned, burns also in its turn
the noses of those who gather close
by the hearth, husband and wife, who learn
of cold, silent days that lay between
man and woman and marriage ideals,
sitting in rockers to set a scene
of resentment…pride…contrary wills.
She, in bonnet and a homely frock,
and he, in coveralls and a cap,
both rocking, yet unwilling to talk—
as settled as the quilt on her lap.
A bitter winter crouches outside
like a demon haunting a doorstep
whose whispers come both cruel and snide
to chafe raw at their throats, like the strep;
an itch at first, then a burning pain,
like sharp caustic swirling in the throat,
blazing as a sharply bitter bane,
his voice as gruff as a billy goat.
“It’s a damn cold winter,” he remarks,
snorting, then hacking from the black smoke
pluming from the kindling as it sparks
to breathe a stuffy fragrance to choke
the stuffy room, and its occupants.
He frowns, staring at the sullen fire
as though one of his stamped documents
for a bank account soon to expire.
The backdoor bangs loudly down the hall
and a chilly breeze swirls its way through
like a lost dog returning at call
from an outing down the avenue.
“Damn that backdoor!” the old man exclaims,
glaring at his wife and at the door.
She’s hard of hearing, or so she claims,
and continues knitting, as before.
The door bangs and bangs, the wind blowing
past his neck, chill on his sallow skin;
and though the hearth is warmly glowing,
his bones are chilled as he thinks back when
they had first met, and he had fought hard
to win her heart from her first husband,
sneaking to this house, (snow in the yard),
and through the backdoor, where he was shunned
only once— never more—for he won
her while her first husband was away
each day for two months, dusk until dawn,
till she divorced and married—same day.
But her exhusband took it to heart
and the divorce knotted itself tight
around his neck. “Till death do us part.”
He hanged himself on their wedding night.
But how many men came here, calling,
when he, too, worked at the factory?
Adultery is not a small thing
done and then gone: it’s refractory.
Even now he wonders about men
who may have come in through that backdoor,
feeling cold as the ghosts all walk in
with the wintry breeze from the wild moor.
For a door could have opened again
on one of his own many workdays,
footprints covered in fresh white snow when
she succumbed to one more nymphal craze.
She was once a looker in her day,
but now—sixty-odd—she looks like most,
which is to say, wrinkled, fat, and gray:
old, old, old, soon to give up the ghost.
“I said you need to shut that back-door!”
he shouts at her, his red face a scowl.
She looks up at him from her frayed chore
while the December winds hiss and howl.
“If you’d fix it good,” she says, “you’d never
have to worry about that door none.”
Glowering, he thinks of how clever
women are— too clever to be done.
Meanwhile the demon is whispering,
its cold breath whirling within his ear,
telling him he reminds of a king
whose horned crown was but a cuckold’s fear,
for throughout his kingdom it was known
his wife had slept with many others,
and though he sat upon a great throne
his bed belonged to his wife’s lovers.
Grumbling, he rises up from his chair
and walks to the chilly old bedroom,
shuddering with the cold gusts of air
and contemplating the coming gloom.
He has always kept a pail of nails
and a hammer underneath the bed,
and as he recalls the sound of bells
at the church where they wished to be wed
he drives the point into stubborn wood
to nail shut that door against the air.
He says, “I’m goin’ to fix it good.”
and, hammer raised, walks toward her chair…

Frost

Pubescent Winter, crone daughter,
coming in dead of night to shine
like stars aglow on cold water
or the glint of a silver mine.

Frost, you blight the garden and crops
far worse than worms in leaf and root
with your cold white crystal caltrops
upon petal, stem, vine, and fruit.

But you kill, too, the worms in squirrels
and rabbits with your icy sting
so that while the frigid wind skirls
the family may eat till Spring.

A goddess takes and gives in turn—
beautiful, cruel, hoary and kind,
so cold that you can sometimes burn
as we leave Summer warmth behind.

Fall (Asleep)

The land was speaking again
with the wilting of the black trees,
the yellowing of green fields, the glen
strewn with leaves from a cold breeze.

Beneath the dismal gloom the land lay
languid while clouds drizzled a cold shower,
gloomy droplets throughout the day
mourning the waste of every flower.

And the sun was gone, as if it had crashed
into the cornfields, with their broken stalks,
and burned itself out, shattered, smashed
into cold black soil, strewn with rocks.

Wherever the land spoke, it decried
like an old man afraid of the long, deep sleep
to come beneath the blankets of Winter-tide,
heavy, cold, silent, heap upon heap.

The True Spirit Of Christmas

When they think of their holly-jolly season
have they not the wherewithal of reckoning or reason
to think of the jolly fat man with his rosy-cheeked smile
but an avatar of delusion, an effigy of denial?
Think back to our ancestors and their bitter winters
that bit with winds and snows, the icy splinters
of that fanged desolation with its arctic blasts
and the famine and the silence, the starvation that lasts
much overlong, as a cruel-clawed hag of want
whose every kiss leaves us shivering and gaunt;
and so do not deceive yourself with dazzling lights
or warm fireside carols, or candied chocolate bites,
nor smile in cheer of a frosty-bearded elf—
rather, see it from the distant ancestral self;
look back through the cold and the darkness
to see black and white, life and death, in all its starkness:
see this wendigo calamity of each passing year
returning round again with the gift of fear,
and humility, and the keen awareness of Death
as they huddled in huts together, their communal breath
heavy with cold, an apparition of prayer
frosting upon our lips, stillborn upon the air,
and recall, too, the jolly saint withered, frost-bitten,
his fingers fallen off after he has eaten each mitten
and his red suit now white with the furious blizzard
while he wanders, snowblind, like a deranged wizard.
See him burn down a whole forest of Christmas trees
to raise his body temperature by a few degrees,
and now he calls out to children, shakes his sleigh bells,
and hungers for youthful meat while the wind wails.
His reindeer shun him, for they all wisely know
not to trust a starving man, or his laughing “Ho ho ho…”
I suppose we ought feel merry for a bellyful of Christmas hog
rather than long-pig roasting over the cruel yuletide log.

Cold

Standing in the cold,
I watched snow fall last night,
white specks drifting down
from a great black height
and stared at one snowflake
twirl-tumbling down,
inevitably, its uniqueness
arrayed as a crown
lost in the distance, the dark,
obscure in its detail,
its fractals of personality,
its soul, as it fell
to the wet, glistening ground,
on the hard concrete,
and it melted upon impact,
next to my unmoved feet;
and I wondered if Someone
in that black-and-white starkness
looked on as we all fell,
from darkness to darkness,
and, bundled up warmly,
cocooned indifferently to all,
it did not deign to catch us
as it watched us fall.