Winter Poetry

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A friend once explained that Minnesota winters last just six weeks. October doesn’t count because it’s still fall. November usually doesn’t get that cold and besides Thanksgiving happens and the holidays begin. If it snows and grows cold during the holidays, who cares? Most of us would prefer that anyway. Winter really begins a week or so into January and lasts until near the end of February. By then it’s almost March and snow doesn’t stick around much. Then comes April, which is spring. 

Self-deception becomes an increasingly valuable talent as one grows older. This issue of the Poetry Project includes vignettes of wintry scenes, reminiscences of past seasons and earlier times, metaphysical speculations, a dog on the way to Canterbury, lots of love and an ode to a taco.

Enjoy. Stay Warm. Keep writing. 

Doug Wilhide is the Poet Laureate of Linden Hills and poetry editor of the Southwest Journal.

 

***

For Women Who Love Ice
James P. Lenfestey 

For Patricia, who grew up on skates

and who took my wife by the hand

around islands and under bridges.

 

For Martha with her hockey stick

out there with the guys under lights

banging off the boards and ripping the net.

 

For Amy, whose day job affects

the whole earth, who glides at night

over black ice in reverie with no fear.

 

For Jan, who sends racing blades

crossing one over the other,

hands clasped behind, wishing

she were who she is now.

 

For Sue, who fell in love with her body

at the community rink — every winter

when it was flooded she became herself,

the person she has looked for ever since.

 

For Grace, who twirls alone.

 

The Last Warm Night                                   
Max Imholte

 

After making love

we lie on the bed

in the dark

under the barely moving fan

waves of headlights

washing up on the walls.

 

Will this moment

become a memory?

Like your dream

of a frightened horse

swimming fast

in muddy water

 

Or mercifully,

will we forget

even the idea of perfection

and leave it

undisturbed for others

as others have for us?

 

Vortex           
Suzanne Schoenfelt

 

Lake Superior is cold tonight,

the sunset sprawled over the water

with the first oranges and reds of fall.

The drive up north in 89-degree heat:

One-lane traffic snaking through Duluth.

Hungry, sleep-deprived,

sore throb in my arms and hands,

my neck, my head

a wreck, like lead.

My nerves shoot pins and needles

around my previously healthy —

and much taken-for-granted — body.

Once at the cabin, I rest.

 

By morning, it all changes

from crisp to cold to frost warning.

The leaves dipped in color

like tips of paint brushes.

When winter comes early,

we are never ready.

 

You and I work side by side,

lifting petunia pinwheels of purples and pinks,

from the flower boxes.

The heft of the dirt

weightier than imagined.

Strangle of vines

grown over the outside porch

dragged to the inside office,

now a haven for plants

and other things too early to die.

 

Years have rolled over each other,

become decades. We are both older.

Yet, some days, little has changed.

I look out: It’s all still there:

sunrise, trees bent over the cold lake,

the shimmer of moonlight quiet on black water.

 

Thank you for getting me here

over such a long distance.

Thank you for taking me

such a very long way.

 

Taco al Pastor at Taqueria La Hacienda           
Phil Calvit

 

If a pig the size of the sun

were to collapse upon itself

neutron star-like

no space between

pig electron and

pig nucleus

the densest conceivable pig

and this pig were to be placed

with tongs

upon a tortilla with

lime, onion, cilantro and salsa

this would be that pig.

 

The Boxer (after Geoffrey Chaucer)
Sam Wilhide 

Then last in line with lead and collar came

A puppy dog that didn’t have a name

As brown and white and fine as he could be

’Twas the shortest yet to visit Canterbury.

 

Flat of snout and quick to make delay

Knew nothing of his company that day

Nor of their goal of Holy Fantasy

Or the Blessed Savior they had come to see.

 

Preoccupied in thinking when to choose

And how to attack that evil pair of shoes

Or which direction had the most to see

Or smell or taste… or where was a tree?

 

Then round and round he chased his stub behind

As we poor mortals do circle blind

When if we could but find the proper Tree

We’d put aside our daily cares and pee.

 

If There Is a God
Lee Pederson 

If there is a god

You can find her in the badlands

Of South Dakota

She will appear at sunrise

In the form of a grain of sand.

 

If there is a god

You can find him on a bus

In Gdansk, Poland

He will be in the coat pocket

Of an old woman with a shopping bag.

 

If there is a god

You will find its essence

Deep within yourself

And you will know it is there

With every heartbeat, with every breath.

 

The Age of Wood           
Daniel Shaw

 

Kitchen match electric snap

            and flare of flame

Grandpa draws on his briar pipe

with dignified urgency

            province of pipe smokers,

            cigar savants

 

Snap, crackle, Mom’s pop

            turns on the radio

            oak tunnel

one way sound track from Bad Axe

news with the aroma of tobacco

            a rainy forecast drifts by

            on whirls of smoke

 

Great Grandfather

peers through his lacquered oval window

            his solemn gaze

            masks the envy of the dead

            for the pleasures of the living

his longing for tobacco

            the vile cuspidor

the broad armed rocker

with blue flowered vines

 

In a stolen moment

I glimpse the four poster

            heavy as the burdens of farm life

            dark with the forbidden pleasures of sex

            redeemed

            by bright laughter Grandma sewed

            into the panels of the quilt. 

 

Cables: A Love Story
Doug Wilhide 

The cable came on a December morning

and my mother felt the fear rush through her

as all the women did:

in wartime a cable was never good news.

But the war was over: the Western Union boy

was not a Navy officer on death duty.

 

UNDER GOLDEN GATE FIRST WEEK JAN STOP

MEET ME STOP WILL BOOK HOTEL STOP

LOVE STOP

 

My mother took the cable down to the high school,

stopped at the library and told her sister,

stopped at his office and told her father,

stopped by the station to check train schedules.

 

This small town Ohio girl, my mother, had left home

only once — to marry my father, the Lieutenant, in Florida.

He had cabled then too:

HOW ABOUT A WEDDING AT CHRISTMAS STOP

Not the most eloquent of proposals, but

she trusted him. She went.

 

She left for San Francisco, cold on the station platform,

the train puffing steam. My grandfather hugged her

and sent her off, alone. Not enough money for a sleeper,

she sat the whole way among GIs going home.

 

She rode in the dark to Cincinnati, then to Chicago,

caught the Empire Builder

that took her through Wisconsin, to St. Paul,

then across the northern plains and through the mountains.

She had received another cable before she left:

TOP OF THE MARK STOP

TUESDAY 5PM STOP LOVE STOP

 

My father, the XO on a destroyer escort

that had rolled in blue water for three years,

was among the last to leave the South Pacific.

When they reached the States, it was foggy,

the big, orange bridge just a gray shadow above them.

“Don’t hit it,” he remembered thinking,

“After all this time, don’t hit the god dam Golden Gate.”

 

He wore his dress blues, she wore her best dress.

He was late, but only a little — 10 minutes after three years.

She saw him come into the bar and got up from the table.

He took off his officer’s hat, bent down and kissed her

and for a long time they held each other, just held each other.

Then they ordered drinks and had dinner.

I was born in October — on the 15th:

“Pay day,” my father always said,

and my mother always smiled.

 

Winter           
Mary Pattock 

I am racing in the short light

of winter

 

shopping the mall as if

there’s no tomorrow

 

frantic for spring the same as

a bear in hibernation

 

he races with eternity and

wins

 

I’m cooking in four pots at once and

company ringing at the door

 

I’m in snow tunnels scurrying with

mice in search of warmth

 

I leave my nest in the maple tree

wondering, can I remember where

 

I hid the nuts and can I find them

before the sun goes down

  

Holiday Wish                       
Rebecca Surmont

 

Dew soft blankets, candle glow

Iridescent new fallen snow

Moonlight aura and stillness keep,

Kaleidoscope lights and dreamless sleep

Whiff of pine from harvest trees

Adorned with loving memories

 

Children’s eyes as bright as cake

Laughter in the house to make

Winter ale and pots of stew

And a sacred silence —

My wish for you.