They’ve come & gone before.
                Two hours or so
of a fine rain freezing on impact
                & what passes
for the world in West Quebec
                (woods, sugar-
bush, pylons, sheep) has spangled
                itself in ice.
Branches bend & snap & forests
                for years afterwards
hold their grieving centres bare
                where Pin Oak,
Siberian Elm, Common Hackberry
                & Bradford Pear
perform a shorn prostration & are
                unable to right
themselves; they teach the weeping
                willow how it’s
done. Sometimes Frost’s broken
                dome of heaven
is how storms end, just that, a shattering
                in the sunlight
of the million crystal filaments
                that fell & hung
on everything, as though absence of
                breath had caused
the general lock-in & simple breath
                was all we ever
needed to un-sleeve the present
                & make it real again.

*

Monday, January 5th: we wake
                to a bluish light
lasering through the window, a wiped
                display on the radio
& the racket of gunshot. The house
                is cold & all
around the trees are coming down.
                First the crack
at the stem of the weight-sore trunk,
                then a clinking
magnified, a china shop up-ending
                in an earthquake,
as the branches rattle & snag.
                When the whole
tree hits, a volley of shots goes up
                & its burden of glass
explodes. This ten, twenty, fifty times
                until we lose each crash
to the cacophony of the week-long storm.
                I still remember
you standing in your housecoat
                that first night
& how your face was lit by the
                transformer
shorting out outside. We didn’t know
                the blackout
ended five states wide, or that the
                footprint
of the ice-storm could be seen
                from space.

*

The sheep were dead. The summary
                execution
of every maple within earshot
                finally stopped
at dawn on the penultimate day.
                The house still
stood, astonished, the one upright
                among a litter
of horizontals, & while it rained
                & froze, rained
& froze, a quiet inside the rainfall
                began to
spread itself abroad, all targets down,
                all debris blown
asunder. You begged me to check
                the sheep.
I knew before I reached them two
                hours later-
the outline of my person hanging
                frozen in the air-
that none of them had survived.
                The silence
was ubiquitous & pure as star-silence.
                So all I had
to offer as I slipped & slithered home-
                wards was an out-
building of kneeling, petrified sheep,
                locked to their
spots like pieces in a Snow Queen’s
                game of chess.

*

Frost flowers. Bearded trees. Ghosts
                of some sudden
deleterious fungus ballooning out
                of the brushwood
one spectacular rose-bowl morning
                the previous
Fall. The lavish, sexual freeze
                of long-stemmed
plants whose ensuing ersatz petals
                splinter when
touched. Midnight, January 9th:
                the jettisoned
excess of the Mississippi Delta
                had punished
us enough. Rain reverted to gas. Before
                the burials, before
the muddy thaw, before the gathering
                mass of melted ice
flooded the south, before the army
                & the extraction
of what was felled from what was
                left, we stood
at our living-room window & watched
                a tiny moon
& a tatter of stars high up in the
                atmosphere
& kissed as two will kiss through sheets
                dipped in dis-
infectant. & everything between us
                flew apart.