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  • Brian M Winningham


Cold so deep, my bones hurt like a tooth ache,

Toes, fingers, and nose numb and stabbed with pins.

Breath curling above my head like tobacco smoke.

The sky a deep blue-black blanket of diamonds and fire.

The tableau in front of me lit more like an eclipse than true night,

The trees are bare, having undressed for the cold,

Shadows stretching and running away from the moon.

Surrounded and blanketed by a dead and otherworldly quiet,

The white silence, insulating, muffling, and stilling.

The only sound, snow, creaking like floorboards under my feet.

A lonely being still moving, still suffering, still struggling forward.

Miles behind me and miles to go, there’s a howl in the distance,

I continue trudging forward, toward hearth and home,

Knowing warmth will bring pain, I crave it anyway…

Walking until darkness eventually gives way to grey,

Purple streaks stretch up from the fields of white as I look east

Toward my barn, a giant white hillock rising impossibly steep,

Toward my home and hearth, and the light I see in the cabin.

My journey over, but a cold day’s work still left to do.

I walk on the porch and the little ones begin to awaken,

My oldest tending fire, soon a woman, sprouting up like prairie grass.

Her eyes the image of her mother’s, minus the pennies for the toll.

I pull off my pack and wet cloak and move to the fire, now surrounded,

As the icy white-hot needles stab my frozen face and hands and feet.

A drip of water slides down an icicle on the eve as the door closes,

And I look just as it pauses and catches the first ray of sun before falling.

And everything is reflected there before it is gone;

From the wide brightening sky, to my wife's grave, to all my hopes and dreams…

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