by Chris Ransick
from Never Summer: Poems From Thin Air
If I told my story, you might doubt
how high snow piled along the street,
how smooth the ice lay all about
low places in a glassy sheet,
green and black as dusk came down,
late January freeze complete.
I measured steps, a little clown,
with songs and jokes, the squirrels and birds
the only audience around.
I think they knew the tunes and words
but were too cold to sing along;
instead the wind pulled minor chords
across the weedy fields, a throng
of silver maples, branches bare,
conducting our shared winter song
with clacking tips in swirling air.
Halfway home I left the road
for a secret path in the forest where
a frozen stream, swept clean and hard,
curved off toward my father’s place
and passed the boundary of our yard.
I worked to free each frozen lace,
exchanged my boots for battered skates,
fat snowflakes falling on my face.
My mother would be setting plates
on the kitchen table, still warm
loaves of bread on cooling grates.
Then I would move with wind, the berm
of snow on either side my shield
from the now advancing storm.
I skated curves and leapt the stones
protruding from imperfect ice
until I saw the lights of home.
Sometimes I finished with a jump, twice
as high as the banks of snow,
landing with a sweet release
deep in a drift. Sometimes I know
I stopped and stared into the rooms,
dark shapes in foursquare panes, below
the chimney’s smoking plume.
So I return now, years gone by,
my memories a winter bloom.