I

The house sparrows
knew
first.

Maybe a week before
through the glass morning
they buzzed and grated:

bad weather coming !

while on the warm side
a human asleep
turns over.

(coming! bad!)

 

II

Across a third-hand table we’re announcing our dissatisfaction
with everything we can think of, fuelled by coffee and letters from friends who are
slaying dragons and discovering time travel and
crossing the Atlantic in boats made of pencil shavings
we snort and simmer, we two fledgling adults, we are ready for our lives,
but our lives lost our address or ran away with someone else
and we remain, imprinting the hours on our knuckles with dull teeth.

My watch has become inexplicably fifteen minutes slow
even though I just replaced the battery
and my little brother swears
he didn’t touch it.

The air outside is cold enough to freeze the sun in mid-sky—
so that’s why it was light out when I got up at six!
well I’ll be damned !

 

III

What the radio said
stay off the roads       tractor-trailer jackknifed on 95 South don’t go anywhere if you can help it
cars piling up on 76 West      no school today or tomorrow or the rest of the week
we will announce business closings at the top of the hour       broken bones if you step outside
for your mail       Lincoln Drive is closed        rolling blackouts will continue this morning
three hours delay on 202       please stay home        Kelly Drive is closed        wait out the weather
pipes are bursting down town        just one lane open on the Ben Franklin Bridge
off     wait     stay     burst      work      don’t       closed      broken      blackout       home       delay
weather
the Common wealth of Pennsylvania
has run out
of salt

 

IV

The people lived in a land without winter. To be sure, when the sun turned from the world their fields withered and they had their flu shots, but of the suffering of northern folk they knew little. Thus it came to be that one night when the ice had fallen upon the land to blight the trees and buildings and glaze the highways with smooth treachery, our weary travellers found themselves in each other’s company, whiling away the time as they told their tales over bountiful coffee and pretzels.

‘I’ve been on the road for a week eating this shit.’ The Trucker from Virginia gazed with sorrow at his third cup of hot chocolate. His flannels were worn as a therapist’s ear and twice as soiled. ‘My wife made me my favourite dinner tonight and now it’s all gone to shit. I’m not going anywhere.’

‘I just pulled over to the shoulder a mile back there on 202 and walked here,’ said the Businessman. ‘No point in sitting there for hours when I can sit here where it’s warm.’ He was pale and stood with his legs apart and knees locked, a defensive stance against the beast called Downsizing. His glasses reflected not the people around him, but the glimmering screen of his computer in an empty office building somewhere in West Chester.

‘You like the Dead?’ exclaimed the girl at the Cash Register whose shirt said Chelsie. She had caught me mouthing lyrics along with her radio. ‘Aren’t they cool? I saw them in Baltimore this summer.’ She welcomed our sudden and shivering company with graciousness, shooing us away if we tried to pay for our hot drinks.

A drift of Construction Workers with orange coveralls and stunned faces swirled in and bought $95 worth of cola, corn chips and cheese crackers. They had not eaten all day.

The Mechanic loped into our tiny gathering and handed me a receipt. ‘Your new battery’s in and charging just fine. That’ll be a quarter of a million dollars. Chelsie can ring you up.’

And so I went out from that place, poorer but brimming with caffeine and good cheer.

 

V

Welcome January! Hail the liminal gods!
Greet the threshold month with wrinkled feet and stalled engines ,
Flooded basements to cleanse your home
in preparation for the year to come.

Fling what salt you have around your house and upon your walk,
purify the ground before and behind you.

If you slip and fall, it is because the frozen earth loves you
and desires your nearness
o you warm mammal.

If you and your useless car are fortunate enough to get stuck
spun like a bottle into the median or
groaning at the bottom of a hill
stranded in your cavelike apartment to fret over lost wages
while the skies find some new thing to do to water
and some new way to drop it on you

it is because
this two-sighted month
with soaked and trembling wings
is teaching you
patience.