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Lisa Zimmerman

on winter poems



Cloudless Snowfall by Franz Wright

Great big flakes like white ashes

at nightfall descending

abruptly everywhere

and vanishing

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).


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