When Ice on the River is Shot with Blue…

The advent of winter is here, and like so many others, I’m turning inward. To lick wounds. To tend to the things I can manage. To imagine a time when my heart will fill up again.


When ice on the river is shot with blue

Do not leave your empty heart

on the table overnight.

Pour in sawdust, stove ash, cobwebs, dirt –

anything that helps you sleep quietly.


When an unknown force binds imagination

and your hope thrashes wings against a cage:

wait. Break kindling against your knee.

Tend to the things you can manage.


After midnight, whisper yourself outside;

heave the pump until water flows.

Before you can mourn the passing clouds

you’ve captured the moon in a bucket.


Unburden yourself to the crows inside

so they roost easy among your ribs.

Their dreams of persimmons and the wind

will heal you if you let them.


When the old wolf shadow nips your cheek,

cover your face with the feathered mask.

Shriek down your own wasting sickness

using lung, wing, heel, fire and fist.


Sort your seeds while the earth is thawing;

listen for those who lie dormant below.

Clear last year’s bracken from around your heart.

Chop and carry until the sweet sap flows.


Go quickly under the next new moon;

steal an ember from the blacksmith’s forge.

Walk home along the fenceline, and don’t forget:

any light will serve, even if it’s not your own.


Pull on your boots and mend the plow;

let nettle fronds absorb your tears.

Carry wax-filled hives from the hay-strewn barn

to the crumpled meadow where the dead fawn lies.


At sunrise, do not speak, just work;

feed your hope on wild ginger and thorns.

Every seed knows its moment, after all –

lord knows you must know yours.


Make a wheel from willow boughs

to link your thoughts to earth and air.

Chase the wheel across the land;

kneel where it falls and dig, dig.


Plant your silence, your pains, your plans

along with purslane, yarrow and sage.

Whistle to the wind to tell the rain

to come along and drench your treasure.


Now fill yourself with mugwort and wine.

Tend to the fire; mend your shirts.

feed the song sparrows, the towhees, even the jays,

and beckon your heart back home.

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