I Explain Winter to my Future Grandson

It was a window that kept out mosquitoes.
A season both savage & dull, like a dog
gnawing a bone out of boredom more than hunger.
You were the bone, it the teeth scraping
like the snow shovels that rasped the sidewalks.
When the wind came from the North, it stripped
your warmth like housepaint. The sun fluoresced
like a white xenon bulb. Deer starved & wandered
onto the highway to lick salt. There was something
called sleet, which was rain with knives.

But Winter could be merciful. The falling snow
thickened the air like a cathedral, but didn’t always
dissolve on the ground; it could stay. We even
called it a blanket. The world slept, fitfully,
& we were the shallow dreams. We cursed & stomped,
shook ice off, weathered the fugue. We schemed
for our April gardens. We grew impatient & hurt.
It was a long Sabbath; it defined our faith, the land,
our halted time. We lost so many gloves in the snow.
Left footprints, too; made our neighborhood a map
of human migration. We could walk across a lake.
No water moccasins swimming in February then.
Birds left, & we grew deep white with our longing.

I can’t explain why this new world feels wrong,
this brown season so much kinder to the bones.
Only that I remember the joy & the nausea
on days when the ice thawed early, how it sparkled
but felt ill. As if the wind had broken the steeple
of the church you hated, where you were baptized.
As if by young dementia you had forgotten both
your grandparents & an entire year of childhood.
As if you knew this was the year that some native flower,
some unknown Southern bird, would not return.

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