Grayed In

January 2009


Snow fallen, another going
gone, new come in, open
the door:
                  each night I grow
young, my friends are well
again, my life is all
before me,
                   each morning
I close a door, another door.


Cloud on cloud, gray
on gray, snow fallen

on snow, tree on tree
on unleafed tree—

only a river silvered
with thin ice and a slash
of gold in the late gray sky.


Grayed snow slush trudge but

snow falling coating filling

in for absence Present!

child with stringed mittens

here to take her place

to take over on

snow showing up air


White sky, whiter sun brushing
trees with tints of red, then

in the distance streaking
mauve gold, filling in
between the now filagreed

trees, silhouettes against
the now red burning sky.


As if letting go, dangling down,
only down, through a cracked
pane, a clear pane, weeping
beech branches, roots

in air, only the crack slant-
ing up or (last night in sleep’s
play a long red slide) sloping down


down buildings walls houses
schools, no one building only

bombing, months of little in,
now nothing no one out, only

down: bodies arms legs in Gaza

where the eyeless man tore pillars
house himself the people down


On this day, this birthday, I wish
myself for the first time (who
would be a child again?) back

at that dining room table with
him, his years of little more less
back, not as in the note in her

birthday book, died 84 yrs of age


snow          rain             ice

stand         walk            fall

little           more           less

face            flesh            hand

will             is                 was

oh               yes              no

melt           rain             snow


Off the page, sliding or
I brush or don’t see
you, but without
you, so cold, colder
than stooped-by-age
shoulder, oh flesh, hand,
Love, come turn my page.


Tempered by age, passion, rage
cool, no lost sleep—
                                    while in sleep
they burn again, your fine hand
igniting my thigh, live birds
crushed under my feet,
morning grays again, aged
back, writing died... of age


As body to body fall-
ing together we burn
again, snow drifts
in air, turns, rolls
almost horizontal,
takes its own slow
time off from falling


Gun to body, shell to body, bombs
to bodies:
                  three, five, now nine
hundred bodies, over two hundred
children’s bodies,
                                over the border
to Gaza to close the already closed
              not to meet, border to border:
a border has no body, is only a side.


Epiphany missed, not the seen but the coming

to see, or star, the minister said, light sensed

against the dark, but not even the dark

night, or the cold bright, snow

roof over the roof below the darkness

before— only gray, industrial gunmetal

battleship slate gray, and the coming of gray


Friend Sleep has betrayed me I’m trapped
in a castle with villainess villain two
doors open a third slams down before
the darkness I’m trapped in a room my
friends accuse me I hide my sheets I cannot
tell them I’m dying and then awaking I’m
hurting (why these dreams?) my betraying self


In sleep a holocaust rations trapped
in a kitchen ovens coming why not eat
them if food is scarce
                                           In Gaza food
is scarce, power lost, the UN Compound,
a hospital hit today, now over 1000 dead—

But see, here, History: the Future: some
hope, though still rationed, is Coming Soon.


stuck zipper sticky egg
wiped off mouth mother’s

mouth lined around but
pursed now closer why

not eat touch again all
right merge again then

zip: put sleep to sleep


Today the train too fast
they said too soon they
said not yet they said

to Washington all
right now a black
man to the White

House on the train.


On his way to the Capitol largely built by slaves
who baked bricks, cut, laid stone—
                                                              on his way
to stand before the Mall where slaves were held
in pens and sold—
                                   on his way to a White
House partly built by slaves, where another
resident, after his Proclamation, wrote:
If slavery is not wrong, nothing is wrong.


One hundred years later, King said
and said to the crowd on the Mall,
Now is the time and We can never
be satisfied as long as, he

dreamed: every valley
exalted, all these years until
not an end, they said, a beginning


O bless hold help keep
him safe, let him help
us through this cold,

let us help him help
us through this
cold, let its end be

O yes a beginning.


Cold is in the air, troops are finally out
of Gaza where 1300 dead are on or in
the ground where olive trees are up-
rooted, down, spoons a coloring
book limbs shoes in the rubble—

In the depths of winter, he said.

Today he is In, at work.


White roof over the roof, white
branches clinging to branches, even
the still fallen snow is moving, even
icicles shift toward dripping, nothing,
not even the cold bodies we are
becoming is not moving, not even
the ground is not moving, over, on


Beyond my windowed
wall, gray clouds move over
             beyond the Wall
that grays Gaza, dust
over dust of disturbed
              wall with drawn-
in windows, winter mirror


cold              heart               comfort           shoulder

feet               hands             water               drawn

in                  from                left                   out

take              stay                 sober                stone

grave            still                  body                turn

on                 light                 open                to

warm           up                     front                heart


fallen snow shifts
blows drifts from tree
to ground, leaves
the beautiful skeletal
limbs open to only
all over air wind
lifts then lets fall


He stumbled but still, she blundered
but still, they said what they shouldn’t
have said and recovered, of course

they are the great but even the small
(though all, we early learn, may fall)
may leave the mistaken, misspoken

behind as late we stumble into our selves.


maybe not long, you said,
cancer cancer cancer, c’s
crashing like waves—

waves of frozen foam
that day on that lake—

you who please don’t go I
can late we I can better Love I


mouth with you to mouth
with you to body with you
in body embodied, not yet un-

bodied Love I can better no
room so warm as with

I think I thought I could I
can but not without you


In Vietnam: new year of the water buffalo,
steady, slow, welcomed with peach
blossoms, fruits, red wine—

In Gaza: year of the new
war, now ended but no room to bury
the dead, no place for the living

to buy food, water, any ...


for the woman who cooks
on a fire of sticks, her bag
of clothes on a tree

for those going home
to water their trees, lemon
and almond and olive

and for those trees


snow to rain to ice to melt to

freeze frame window grayed

in with old self same but

new has come can better

Love I—going home bless keep

clean gray slate not white or black for

even these few words, this small rain

Martha Collins, "Grayed In" from Day Unto Day. Copyright © 2014 by Martha Collins.  Reprinted by permission of Milkweed Editions.
Source: Day Unto Day (Milkweed Editions, 2014)
More Poems by Martha Collins