Already the hunters of spar and rut
sag beneath this first weight of snow.
They are lost.
All day I opened the blinds to see it come,
the first storm of our prairied winter
brooding over the wintered peaks
like a thumb bruise.
Snow is clustering in the wallows
of the elk, in the wintering ground.
Night has entered the white paper
of the girdled birch,
and the fine combs of aspen
bend over double, threshers
of August velvet, honers
of the bone's great rack.
And now the first blow
and the gold lanterns of the cottonwood
flicker over the brown yard.
Here is the breath of my hand
on the glass and the ice climbing.
In this room, there is a lonely women's bed
where sometimes I lay with you,
your arms around me sometimes.
Those two sisters, I cannot forget them,
Their quiet undressing
fills the room, night after night,
the hushed folding of their dresses,
and sometimes the hall's light, or the moon
entering to touch them.
in black and white tips from the brink of trees
and the hunter sights down the rib.
He would have the cape of this animal.
They share your father's blood
and yours and here, now, in the warm sleeping dark,
they are the moth-stir at the fluted bones
of our two early daughters, their wrists
smaller than your thumb.
This is winter's bugle
and I watch winter hurling itself
beneath the streetlamps, arc-ed and sulphurous,
its thick pelt brushed over the angled roofs
of our feeders, the frail stems
of the cherry and the pear bending to earth,
and I go without reason to stand in our yard
full-faced against the wind
without coat or glove, those thick wheels
of snow raking over me.
The wintered hunters are searching
for the snow's unbalance, the heart track.
Aged, it is the hoar crystal,
the dust's fine pock,
the fresh dark breath
of the morning soil upturned.
And here, where the black peaks
of houses in summer shadow the lighted air,
and unleash the second stars,
I watch you through the window,
through the dishes' steam.
What Love Is
Our feeder hangs by a chain
From the 't' of our clothesline pole, perfect
Above the round 'o' sparrows have brushed into the seeded snow.
Dozens, whole flocks feathers—well the skeletal lilacs
Into blossom and wake us to the last bit of night
Filling the ground like a silted flood. Only a sleep past,
We walked in our slippers through the new snow
To lift the roof of this house to give the seed that lifts
The bird's wing, shells the young that would weight the flight.
There, beneath the graying emptied hulls
Of the lilacs, we found this nailed tin and I thought of the quiet woman
Who lived here before us, who made with her hands
This feeder, who season after season hung it
From this very pole. How many years did she come out here
As we do, only alone, frightened in the doorway's slash of light
That blinded her even to the stars she could finger-trace
Into gods, everywhere around her, the unchanging birds,
Invisible, hood-eyed beneath the gutter's seasonal mulch?
It's always a matter of stars,
I remember ourselves, unlit, how we once stood even then awed
Among the bowed, harvest-hooded wheat stalks,
Some Kansas sky too full above us to let the dark, airless
Heavens bruise over us, our bodies too young, too new
Together to know how even the world is drained of its fire.
Even now the stars are what I see
Edging the gutter of this house, our borrowed ladder
Extending up to them and to our day's last chore
As evening washes westwardly over us, and the leaves
You spade free, that long seasons have packed liked lifted earth,
Come showering down.
How much of the body I've become, the familiar weight
Of you an arm's length away and star-bound,
The whole world turned upside down.