First snow, fallen on ice, canopies the woods.
Two bundled shapes tromp into the quiet
space between the trees, moving against the
three o’ clock glare into slats of shadow.
Each bootprint falls alongside an etching smaller
and more mysterious: the figure in black, with a stick in his hand,
marks each dalliance in the snow. “Rabbit,” he writes
in pointed letters, with an arrow to show where the
animal began marking a mile-long path in three-inch
increments. “Dog,” he proclaims—then adds a question mark,
for what if it should be “coyote” or “fox?” Who knows
what creature crouches behind the next ridge,
under the nearby root?
Who knows what flicking tail
hovers in the water trickling under an opaque surface?
Trading his stick for a spear of ice, the figure in black
mans the bridge. He will shatter winter from on high,
casting a weight onto the frozen expanse, forcing it to flow.
But ice cannot break ice; only the javelin shatters where
moments ago thrown snow burst in puffs of powder,
arms flung out like a Moravian star. The figure in mauve
perches on the snowbank, watching the creek move downhill
with a weight on its back; watching silver swords plummet from the sky,
defeated by their target. No sound crosses the empty space, not a
crack of the creek giving way, not a sigh of branches or a crunch of
steps on the snow. Nothing happens at all, except that the figure in black
hurls every ice hammer he can find, except that a chickadee cries
once for the figures to keep their distance, except that the sun
grins a softening grin at the hardened earth, heartily declaring a
golden victory in spring’s favor.
Want more winter words? Enjoy this!