on winter poems
Cloudless Snowfall by Franz Wright
Great big flakes like white ashes
at nightfall descending
in this hand like the host
on somebody’s put-out tongue, she
turns the crucifix over
to me, still warm
from her touch two years later
and thank you,
I say all alone—
Vast whisp-whisp of wingbeats
awakens me and I look up
at a minute-long string of black geese
following low past the moon the white
course of the snow-covered river and
by the way Thank You for
keeping Your face hidden, I
can hardly bear the beauty of this world.
After a Death by Tomas Tranströmer
Once there was a shock
that left behind a long, shimmering comet tail.
It keeps us inside. It makes the TV pictures snowy.
It settles in cold drops on the telephone wires.
One can still go slowly on skis in the winter sun
through brush where a few leaves hang on.
They resemble pages torn from old telephone directories.
Names swallowed by the cold.
It is still beautiful to hear the heart beat
but often the shadow seems more real than the body.
The samurai looks insignificant
beside his armor of black dragon scales.
Catalogue of Silence by Charlotte Matthews
There’s a new foal in the field beside the road,
and when I drive by, he is pacing back and forth
looking for something he will never need to find.
Next door, children skate on February ice, circling
each other in paths swept clean of snow.
In the Middle Ages, all the hours of the day, monks bent
over velum, illuminating the Bible: each E
curly as a ram’s horn, O holding dominion,
over the parable as if to say there is nothing
more wild than a mouth open in awe.
Once upon a time there was a mime, and each door
he closed never made a sound
even though he did it all the days of his life.
Ice Storm by Robert Hayden
Unable to sleep, or pray, I stand
by the window looking out
at moonstruck trees a December storm
has bowed with ice.
Maple and mountain ash bend
under its glassy weight,
their cracked branches falling upon
the frozen snow.
The trees themselves, as in winters past,
will survive their burdening,
broken thrive. And am I less to You,
my God, than they?
The World by Jennifer Chang From Some Say the Lark (Alice James Books, 2017)
One winter I lived north, alone
and effortless, dreaming myself
into the past. Perhaps, I thought,
words could replenish privacy.
Outside, a red bicycle froze
into form, made the world falser
in its white austerity. So much
happens after harvest: the moon
performing novelty: slaughter,
snow. One hour the same
as the next, I held my hands
or held the snow. I was like sculpture,
forgetting or, perhaps, remembering
everything. Red wings in the snow,
red thoughts ablaze in the war
I was having with myself again.
Everything I hate about the world
I hate about myself, even now
writing as if this were a law
of nature. Say there were deer
fleet in the snow, walking out
the cold, and more gingkoes
bare in the beggar’s grove. Say
I was not the only one who saw
or heard the trees, their diffidence
greater than my noise. Perhaps
the future is a tiny flame
I’ll nick from a candle. First, I’m burning.
Then, numb. Why must every winter
grow colder, and more sure?
Listen By Miller Williams
I threw a snowball across the backyard.
My dog ran after it to bring it back.
It broke as it fell, scattering snow over snow.
She stood confused, seeing and smelling nothing.
She searched in widening circles until I called her.
She looked at me and said as clearly in silence
as if she had spoken,
I know it’s here, I’ll find it,
went back to the center and started the circles again.
I called her two more times before she came
slowly, stopping once to look back.
That was this morning. I’m sure that she’s forgotten.
I’ve had some trouble putting it out my mind.
Early Morning Poem for My Husband by Lisa Zimmerman, from The Hours I
Keep (Main Street Rag)
Across dawn and sifted snow
a fox has traveled. Blue light
collects in the proof of his journey,
a path vanishing beyond
the far field’s white embrace.
Morning breaks in earnest, too cold
to follow. Light creates its own silence.
The stars dissolve to nothing, the moon
a gauzy afterthought.
Loss opens its book inside my ribs.
Again this page, I say to no one.
Not even you.
Lisa Zimmerman is a professor of English and Creative Writing at the University of Northern Colorado. She is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate in English and History from Colorado State University and received her MFA in Creative Writing from Washington University in St. Louis.
Her poetry and short fiction have appeared in anthologies as well as magazines including Cave Wall, Florida Review, Poet Lore, Colorado Review, The Sun, SWWIM Every Day, Hole in the Head Review, and Amethyst Review, among other journals, and is the winner of Redbook Magazine’s Short Story contest.
She is the author of seven poetry collections, four chapbooks, including Sainted (Main Street Rag 2021) as well as three full-length books–The Light at the Edge of Everything (Anhinga Press), The Hours I Keep (Main Street Rag), and her debut poetry collection which won the 2004 Violet Reed Haas Poetry Award. Her poetry has been nominated for Best of the Net and five times for the Pushcart Prize. One of her prose poems is included in The Best Small Fictions: 2020 Anthology (Sonder Press).