April 6, 2010

Sandy Longhorn


Walking home in the first hard freeze
with ice building in layers on the slick surfaces
of roads and bridges, my breath plumes
before me and I cough on the brittle air.
I tread on the safer grass-lined ditch,
the creek bank’s thick mud, stiff like setting plaster.
The sun fades behind the trees, and I am insular,
wrapped in a dim, sky-heavy day and counting
the weeks until spring unlocks winter’s heavy door.

When the forecast calls for the worst,
I let the tap in the stainless steel sink
run all night and I dream of songbirds,
warblers and orioles, their pipe-cleaner legs
trapped on iced-over branches, too exhausted
to do anything but sing. Their orange
and yellow feathers drop to the snow–
false flames I gather in my bare hands
and bring to my mouth in hunger.
I wake to the sound of the water heater kicking in,
to the metallic bite of birch bark and rust in my throat.

from Rattle #19, Summer 2003

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