Before I go, I have something to say

Winter Windows

Morning’s lemon sun draws me
to the glass, until some frozen presence
makes me step away, a draft like a warning breath
from the east-facing kitchen window. A gnawing
numbness grips my hand, and my body becomes
a glass of jagged ice cubes, colliding underwater.
The sun has folded back under the clouds, visible
only to travelers on airplanes. They look down
to find the farm fields gone, a length
of cotton batting between the sky and the ground.

I stand in the kitchen, robe buttoned to the top,
assessing the night’s flow of snow to the grassy ground.
Red roofs, green roofs, orange terracotta roofs
surrender their color to white. Kids on snow day
come out to test their sleds down our hill,
until the flakes sifting their shoulders
turn to hard-nailed fingers. Rain shifts
briefly to sleet, throwing dice against the eaves,
knocking to come in.

This is a day to bake bread, roll pie crusts, fashion
cookies to eat before they cool. Everyone
is at work but me. I go back ten years to that day
on the sixth floor, asking my boss if the man I saw
standing by the hall windows every day was all right,
his outward-turned face unreadable.
Oh, him, she laughed. He just loves to be outside.
A hunter, maybe, a catcher of catfish, laboring away
in a windowless office, taking an imaginary breath
of fresh air at the sealed glass.

One day at those windows, I saw eighteen vultures
making a kettle, stirring in circles on the August breeze;
scalloped wingtips combing the invisible air, gesturing
to the rest of their tribe from miles away.
The man was there. You can’t tell me they’re not
having fun, he said, the blue of the sky in his eyes.
Later that year, the leaves gone, the sky lowering,
he stood behind me, watching the first snowflakes
bloom. I didn’t know he was there until we both turned
to go back to our work. Queen Anne’s Lace, I said,
and his face softened again. We sighed in unison,
in tune with the unheard wind
outside, gathering cold bouquets.


Published in The Writers’ Café, 2018

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