Pieces for a Northern Winter

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I

The steps by which winter
comes to us, moving
down through a scale

to the low note of the owl, a booming
in snowfields that narrow
their focus to blue.

The last days of November
smoking. A streetlamp
discovers Muscovy,

a bear’s white polar shadow
sheets the river’s breath.
Each day now has the sharpness

of a tooth and December
shines under our clothes. Moving
fast across the snow

towards us, the new year
leaves no print. We’re lost. The rescue-party
will not find us now.

II

Fine scribble-lines of ice: the lake tenses
its skin, gives up

its wings. Wave upon wave, snow-capped they flow
south into the sun, birches shudder

and give up their leaves.
Austerities, a tightening. Of belts as horizons

crackle and shrink. The smallest whisper
travels in nine-league boots,

a giant
snores in the mouse’s ear,

and salted, frozen on hooks, the autumn
kill shakes off

its thunder of hooves. On metal plates
the small bones, creaking,

nudge at distances. Spring
already and the awakening! We eat

with a slow solemnity. Resurrection
is real and will take place in every fashion: sucked

of their marrow even wishbones
expect it. Outside

the pack-ice buckles. Listen. New leaves
can be heard breaking through

in the stillness. Hear also, in the scavenger waste-places,
the shifting of bones.

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