Sequels to an Uncollected Winter

By G. E. Murray
1. Morning of Crystal

This is the deathless body, and this
the land’s blood … and here the wine-laced sky
over Iowa resembles a heavenly parfait.   
In one more day Des Moines
will be diapered by first snow. A young girl,
barely real, glazes the sidewalk
with a stupid look. Iowa in winter always   
dumbfounds the love in us.
Before long, nothing opposes the weight and resolution
of this sky, this wilderness of earth
hardening. When heaviness strikes like a clock
glowing incandescently, the season   
opens to itself, as if a familiar stunt   
in a traveling show, a fabulation only
a touched young girl can devise for any new world.

                                              Des Moines. November 1973

2. Cooking the Cold

In our smoke house,
in hot fog of hickory and buckeye chips,   
we hang meats

like vignettes, independent   
of all but the bones   
we crack

and soup. Outside,
it’s the same white shimmering   
Ohio country

we trust like an open palm,   
like an apothecary.   
And in these crosswinds,

as our fire builds,
stirrings of primordial dusk begin   
fogging in.

             Shelby County, Ohio. December 1974

3. Ice Finesse

Long Christmas evening in a farm woman’s bed,
I warm like a quilt.
A December of junctions,
dark, unlittered, airy as entry   
into fable, cutting against grains   
of propriety. We are decent   
enough, naked in the self-paintings   
we brush like hair. On holy night,   
waking to the screech of pipes bursting   
in winter’s elaborate dwelling,   
our spines ice us
upright, like posts in the sheets.   
Assured of disaster,
we fall back to swarm over   
the gifts
from our polished skins.

                     Independence, Missouri. December 1975

4. The Certainties

Kept animals stray in the wind-driven snow twenty miles northwest
Out of Minneapolis, white-faced heifers each searching the eyes
Of the others, doomed. These distances blowing closed over roads
And county fences, emanate from the hardest parts of us like certainties.
At desolate junctures, hardly moving, a gunshot of breath signals
The residue of soul. On this barren, narrow towpath, the hung
Bellies of cows lunge through drifts forming whale tracks, inching
Ahead, the beasts hopeful as drifters at the hiring gate. Night-hammered,
Blizzard-ripe, we wait by the window with house plants, our fears
Nearly realized, a salt lick of faith turning to stone in our bowels.

                                             Coon Rapids, Minnesota. January 1976

5. An Undoing

My horses are dead,   
but the hail has gone.

Three hundred miles south   
the ground is fit to plant.

I rinse out in a wind,   
dreaming of lumber.

Logs and dead crops   
appear in my songs.

In this looseleaf country,   
I can bury and build.

Rightly, it is winter.
I won’t need more horses.

                                     Shelby County, Indiana. February 1977

6. On the Upside

On Hubbard Street, among factory signs   
And the gay bars further west, this winter   
In the ditch does not mean enough.   
With innocence, a melodrama of duty   
Is played by the big Pole city workers,   
Flinging rock salt, unplugging sewers   
In defense of a surprise freeze.   
Their smiles, like habits, break hard.   
Their black stocking caps appear
Stark and vulnerable to the young men cruising
Past hand-in-hand, swimming at noon   
Toward darkened theaters and bargain hotels,   
Requiring sweet ambush, a ration   
Of luxury. These filthy buildings don’t care,   
Can’t whistle insults. Soon the Poles,   
Immutable as mud, will have picked   
These streets clean of ice
And loitering glances, will filter
Home to dinners of wurst and bock beer,   
Laying odds against more snow.
And slowly, in its timeliness, a clothesline   
Of color will string through the city,   
Flapping proudly, ready for collision   
With high blue skies, like old lovers
Tossing again in a warehouse loft, straining free.

                                 Northside Chicago. March 1978

G. E. Murray, “Sequels to an Uncollected Winter” from Repairs. Copyright © 1979 by G. E. Murray. Used by permission of the University of Missouri Press.

Source: Repairs (University of Missouri Press, 1979)

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Poet G. E. Murray

POET’S REGION U.S., Midwestern

Subjects Nature, Winter

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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