Island Fever


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It’s a real thing, he says,

Musing of moving from Mauna Lani

To Austria, Poland, Prague, or Germany.

Haven’t been to the ocean

In three months, he says,

As he pecks out letters,

One by one, on the keyboard.

Of course, we later joke

About wanting island fever:

A life absent of snow, of the ice

We slipped upon, of gray days.

But to trade the aspen,

With its bare arms,

And its crystaling rime

And silence, the way it pleads,

The way it trembles

Among its roots, from start

To start to start–

That anticipation, that loneliness,

That incredible wonder—

Even in paradise, the heart

Has its hole. It has its terrible

Brokenness, and its frantic

Longing to be away.



Second Winter of Winter


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The second Winter was the cruelest,

The way it buried our hopes.

Even the ground had opened its mouth,

Like a baby bird, waiting to be fed.

I swear the grass was starting to green,

And I’m sure I heard a frog that night–

We sat outside and said we smelled spring.

We were wrong, as we always are

When we try to divine the future.

The only animal who tries to divine the future—

The only one who knows disappointment

In buried grass, bare branches, and silence.

If Snow Could Form Into Tree


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If snow could form into tree,

It would be the aspen.

Snow, one of a thousand

shades of white,

The perception of light and brightness–

And Spirits, rising up like like colonies,

Covered in it. The snow. This aspen.

Our hopes. Our dreams. The good dreams,

That is. The ones where fairy god mothers

Float down and save us.

Did you know, aspen bark heals?

They say it takes away pain–

Like a friend, a lover, my mother

rubbing my back until it burns.

And, like a child, that’s what I want it to be.

Yet, its naked trunk rises like winter–

So unafraid, so unalone,

So rigid, intractable and distant.

Yes, if snow could form into tree,

It would be the aspen,

And the cold, white stillness of what seems

A winter that won’t go away.


Winter Hurt

The aspen is still again,

Its arms are bare again.

Yet, the small sound of chimes,

betrays a slight breeze–

As a coyote makes its way,

Through the snow, to our barn.

The wolfhounds pick up her smell

And there is barking,

And the crunching sound of paws

Lunging over hard pack.

This is the season

When coyotes mate–

They are hungry,

They are cold,

They are desperate.

And I wonder,

Is the aspen desperate, too–

Roots trembling, like hands

Held together for comfort–

Saying, It hurts to be this still.

It hurts to be this bare.

It hurts to be this hungry.


Winter Rime


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The consolation of cold:

Rime on the branches,

Aspen lifting their arms

To worship the day.


The Passing of Billy Graham


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The aspen is clothed,

Its limbs reach toward heaven

Alight with rime and worship:

A great one has passed

At ninety nine years–

The lives that are touched

At ninety nine years–

Mine, my grandfather’s,

The time overlaps,

spreads over the landscape

So that all are touched,

All are clothed.

It is zero today,

And I wanted to write

That hell is cold–

Until I saw the aspen

Clothed in hoar frost.

All the world has become

The aspen, outlined in ice.


Will I Wake In Spring?


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I said the aspen was naked,

But maybe it’s me that’s naked.

The older I get,

The more naked I feel,

Like the aspen stripped by winter.

Its bare limbs standing still

In the fog, are they my limbs?

How terrifying!

How vulnerable!

How lonely!

Will it wake in spring?

Will I wake in spring?


The Consolation of Cold Days

The consolation of cold days

Are the morning skies

Awash in Fire.

The naked aspen,

Outlined in blue,

And white, and gray,

Has found some solace

In its own beauty.


In the Bleak Mid-Winter

“In the bleak mid-winter

  Frosty wind made moan,

Earth stood hard as iron,

  Water like a stone;

Snow had fallen, snow on snow,

  Snow on snow,

In the bleak mid-winter

  Long ago.”

The return of winter,

During Winter:

As we slept

It snowed eight inches.

Eight inches.

Enough to obliterate

The grass, starting to green.

I dreamt

Of being abandoned–

And woke to find

you’d been up since 4 am.

The House was warm,

As if the furnace

Had suddenly become efficient.

Too efficient, I thought,

As I watched the light

Gradually increase outside.

You see, there was no sun.

Not in this bleak mid-winter.

You’d say it was white,

But I’d say it was gray–

A tinge of darkness–

The unknown, like a fog

Near the barn.

The aspen,

Its white body–

elegant and erotic–

Naked in the snow,

Stripped completely bare

And framed by the fog–

Was so still.

Yes, it was still as death.

A corpse,

And, if it had started to dream,

It dreamt no more–

Unless, it too dreamt of being abandoned.


The Wind Speaks Winter

The aspen’s branches are bare,

The wind speaks through chimes:

Winter, winter, winter, it says,

As if it knows no other word.

Did it forget the crocus,

Its alien spathe piercing the ground,

petals struggling

To escape the cocoon?

Did it forget the wild irises,

Dotting the pasture,

Tall, elegant, blushed in plum?

Or, the branches

Heavy with apple blossoms,

And the apples,

The gelding ate from her hands:

Open hands, the juice of the fruit?

Today, it plays dumb.

The bare tree waves

Its empty arms,

While snow shifts and drifts,

And the outside chandelier

Swings like a crystal pendulum

Trying to divine,

Will the cold ever end?

While the wind speaks,

Saying, Winter,