When a big lethargic winter fly
crawled out from under the edge of a book
I felt disgust at the sight and thought of its
death by fire or ice. Is one more merciful
than the other? I felt no mercy in my decision
to throw it out the door into the snow.
The quicker death by fire seemed too final––
a step I wasn’t ready to take.
After a moment of conscience
I opened the door and saw where it lay
unmoving. I picked it up in a napkin shroud
and laid it by the woodstove, where its legs twitched,
it righted itself, and walked around the I.C.U.
under the stove. Would it find and eat
the smaller fly walking the window pane?
Something beautiful from the woods
into the field at dusk
stepping lightly in the snow
until she startles and lopes
away from an open moment
to protective cover, hidden
but not before having been seen;
and having been seen, having
been known in the seeing.
The first flakes of November snow
are singular: one––two … one––one.
They come gently down from clouds,
white clouds hurrying over to keep
an appointment with approaching winter.
Suddenly thickly they hit the ground
a cold body of weather fully formed.
For four minutes, five minutes, what
was flurry becomes a full-blown squall
drawing me out of protective quarters
to see if I’ve misunderstood what it portends.
It’s the first week of February.
Wild apples picked in October
have shriveled into themselves.
No longer suitable for apple pie
we dump them out for the herd of deer
that haunted our woods through
January, scavenging among spruce,
standing on hind legs in the snow
to reach the buds of high-bush and tree.
There’s no distinction on the ground––
everything was eaten as we found
the morning after a moonlit meal in Maine.
After all these years her reduction to ashes
sits unmolested on the fireplace mantle,
her mother afraid to let her go underground.
Her father had found her frozen in death
his and her mother’s love not enough
to save her from the cold and loneliness
of depression, that folded her in on herself.
If only she’d called, they’d have heard and come
running with hope for a new beginning.
Off you go on your tractor to split the wood.
Seems I’m always hailing you from a distance,
you at your work, I at mine watching you,
recording your work on a day in spring
that is already looking through summer
to the cold trap of winter beyond, knowing
the flare of color in fall a brief fire
that will not last but will end as we will––
brown and sere––pushed off our branch
by the buds of another spring.
March snow inches in
from the edge of the field
to the warming center
where sun and sod converge
in a soggy melt
as our wooden fingers,
our wooden toes
are warmed from the center
when blood flows out to extremities
trembling, and awaiting relief.