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Showing winter the door [poem: Winter]

March 24, 2011

I’ve been watching snow and ice disappear from my yard this week, but the air is still too cold and the ground too frozen for me to venture outdoors for long. Instead, I’m inside, editing articles about gardening and gathering ideas for summer adventures in dirt. It makes me think about how I’m drawn to fiction that emphasizes spring and summer during the darkest days of the year and how fire season draws my eyes to water-starved peaks, wishing they were covered in the white shroud that hosts such a glorious alpenglow. It’s yet another reminder of how human I am, always longing for what I can’t have.

I’ve been working on just such a poem of seasonal longing in the Get Poetry writing workshop, which is off to a fabulous start in its first few weeks. I’m helping to run the workshop, so if you are a local poet you should join us! My workshop piece is not yet ready to post, so I offer this wintery poem before turning my face toward the sun.

But first, thanks again to Jingle, Vinay, and everyone with the Thursday Poets Rally for their mad organizing skills and dedication the online poetry community. I gratefully accept this award and nominate Words Asunder for this week.

Perfect Poet Award


Where I move softly in summer,
the motion of water over rock
masking my steady footfalls,
I now break through silence.
Boots press to fallen leaves
etched with a sparkling frost,
intricate filigree,
that shatters with each step.
The crackle carries in
winter’s chilly stillness
across the hard, frozen
surface of the water
that stretches endlessly
as though unbreakable.

But beneath the ice,
the river still flows.
Slowly, beautifully,
shifting patterns of
hollows and bubbles
press themselves against
the shell that makes the
river hold its breath
and wait patiently
until it is time
to slip through the cracks
that threaten to form
and push this winter
into memory.

This river reminds me of you
in its wintertime contradiction:
at once quiet and wild.
So eager and willing,
yet patient and careful,
you will handle my heart—
the one so recently
fused together again—
with such gentle passion.
You see how easily
its filigreed surface
can be cracked and broken
like the river’s edge
stomped by a careless boot.

—Julie Laing

You can hear me read this poem at the Kalispell Get Poetry Open Mic, thanks to the work of Mat Lee and The Jamhole. My reading starts around minute 9, but be sure to check out some of the other fabulous poets who were at this event. My other poems in this reading are “Blond Boys” and “The Inner Room.”

15 Comments leave one →
  1. April 10, 2011 11:36 pm

    I wish to see flowing river beneath the ice.
    Lovely poem.


  2. jmsimpson permalink
    March 28, 2011 6:55 pm

    Hi Julie,

    I’m a newbie, so please excuse if I don’t have the protocol down. I really like your site — your site photo is striking! I really liked your images of the lake holding its breath — original. I’d suggest that your first two stanzas are very strong. The third moves to a “love” poem and the images become more predictable. Wondering if it’s possible to keep those powerful images of the river at the center of the stage. Really feel the poet behind this site … wonderful stuff!


    • March 29, 2011 10:19 am

      Thanks, JM, for your feedback on my site and poem! The banner photo is one I took last year in Utah’s Goblin Valley State Park–so aptly named. I’m glad you enjoyed the poem–and thanks for the suggestions. This piece, like most of what I post, is still a work in progress, so I appreciate all of the constructive crit I can get.


  3. squashedmosquito permalink
    March 27, 2011 5:14 pm

    A beautiful line: the shell that makes the | river hold its breath
    like we too need to hold our breath as we contract and protect and cover ourselves.
    Well done on the poetry award; nice to see a very deserved win. xx


  4. March 27, 2011 1:53 pm

    Very beautiful. Thanks for visiting my blog!


  5. sparrowsong permalink
    March 27, 2011 1:44 pm

    “patterns of hollows and bubbles” Love it.


  6. Silvertongue permalink
    March 26, 2011 9:37 pm

    I have always believed that poems aren’t simply meant to be read but experienced. Thanks for sharing the complete experience. Great poem and reading.


  7. March 26, 2011 3:47 am

    the flow of the river beneath the layer of ice, one which used to flow over all obstacles.. the flow can be seen through your words here too.. a wonderful poem, Julie.. thank u for sharing.. and congratulations for the Perfect Poet award..

    Here’s My Poetry For The Rally


  8. March 25, 2011 3:54 am

    The added vocal interpretation enhanced this lovely poem nice1… ;D


  9. March 24, 2011 1:44 pm

    lovely and descriptive….flowing like that beautiful river beneath the ice.


  10. March 24, 2011 1:44 pm

    dynamic imagery on cold weather,
    Glad to see you take the perfect poet award.

    Happy Rally.


    • March 27, 2011 11:37 am

      Thanks Jingle–not just for your feedback on my piece but for all you do for the online poetry community!


  11. March 24, 2011 1:18 pm

    Beautiful description of frozen natural beauty.
    And thanks so much for nominating me 🙂


  12. March 24, 2011 1:01 pm

    I thought it was supposed to be spring, but we still have cold & rain. Trees are budding out & bulbs blooming, so there’s hope. Mom


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