Now the Winter hauls its fierce
Force, in inhalations
Up to the front of the line.
We wait to see it as a thing
That wants to touch the earth,
As the season tries to avoid all
Metaphors and begins
Insisting that it knows everything
And will not cooperate in any of the planned
Choirs intended to mark the short
Days. It immediately collides with water,
Freezes the toes off of someone named
In a newspaper, who lost their shoes
While in the white eye of the mountains.
“Mine!” says the Winter, surprising itself
With its cry bordering on a tumbling
Toward a cliff edge or a mountain,
Barely able to hold itself in
Long enough to display its immeasurable
Power, and it resorts to snow.
Eventually snow hides everything in
Its white being, ripping the trees
Down, covered with ice, automobiles
Sliding all over the road like trombones
Not understanding the score. It seems
To be living but it is not.
Finally it flickers in children’s fairy books
With white body, white hair, white
Arms and legs, turns almost blue
Under the moon and refuses to describe
Anything but bare trees and animal tracks.
Oh beautiful it is in hand.
Oh more beautiful is the sky.
Her eyes shine toward these tall heavens.
Do you see the forest in the snow
And watch the evening star fall?
Did you sing the little songs
That wait for Winter to be remembered?
Oh beautiful it is in hand.
And all the world whispers
Such love around it.
Huddled under the trees
The light fractures the leaves.
We wear shadows that camouflages
Please don’t speak.
One time I came down all the way
From Portland just to climb a flight
Of stairs that once had been a
Sentence or two in a story in an old book.
It was great doing that.
It was like walking up a waterfall.
There wasn’t anything at the top
Of the stairs, but it looked like
There could have been at one time.
I imagined it was a nice little clapboard
Place and that two girls had lived
There with their parents. Their
Father had told them to never
Go near those stairs, but one
Day they just walked out of doors
And trotted right down those same stairs.
There were a lot of stairs. It took
A long, long time to get to the bottom.
When they got to the bottom they looked
Up. Their house looked like a doll house.
It was that far away.
This isn’t the story I read about
The stairs. In that story there had
Been fish and a case of mistaken identity.
When the great ship rose from the water
It was transparent and was crowded
With the dead, strangely animated
Now by the tons of water moving
Through the vessel. Yet still it lifted.
It must have been the moon.
One could see into the great
Engine rooms, the magnificent
Ballroom, the huge dining commons.
All the public areas of the ship
Filled with the skeletons and
Washes of bones as it fled toward
The stars. The water spewed
From the ship. At times it appeared
To be a grotesque fountain rising
From the water. First the bow,
Aimed at about 45 degrees.
We were so close, we could see
Loose skulls and acres of tumbling
Bones swirling through the great
We watched for hours. The moon
Ghosting its light through the vessel
As it rose through the air,
Higher and higher it seemed.
Water poured from it as if it
Would never end.
But it did. Just before it
Disappeared into the sky
There was a flash and the spectacle
Was gone. No one would believe us.
We have remained silent all these years.
Now we have become old and can tell you,
For sights like this are no longer
Thought of as impossible or strange.
The moon rusts in a smoke-
Filled sky daring us to find
Believers. Rolling among the clouds.
Lifting the tides higher than our imaginations
Could ever carry us.
We cannot ever bring back the dragons.
That was the agreement back when we
Came to the high camps. Even if
We were without hope we had vowed
Not to say their names aloud.
Their gift for this was a new language. It took so
Little time to gain its usage. We were amazed
To be speaking it in groups within a fortnight.
It had a quality of song about it.
I am going to allow the language
But it will speak as tigers, terrible
As the dawn might be or the night's
Great majesty, for the words have power;
They power all and you may dance or you
May fall, swirling on a pause that
May be a comma or nothing at all.
The eyebrow of the beast may twitch
And we will run from the forest
To the shore and I may
Never know you or I may know
You all. There is no sound upon
As we see the tiger in its glade,
But its eye will see you,
Smell the warmth of meat of which
You are made and find you almost
To Charon’s boat, now blue,
Now only a shade.
The burrs of understanding
Every language in the world,
Their curious cadences we use
To ride. The horses come from heaven
To do our bidding as we beg
See and feel the language fill our sight.
I am going to allow the language to
Dwell here for its famous moment.
A purity we are amazed to have privy to
Even as we open our mouths.
—Taylor Graham, Placerville
Morning TV news: the end of the world.
Fiscal cliff. Upside-down
mountain. Silence for the victims.
I walked out the door. Frozen
grass crunched underfoot. Red glow
to the east, rising with a dying season's
yellow edge of solstice. Sky
lightened to dawn, the first of winter.
Days will be getting longer.