Two Poems

by Martin Arnold






Winter

Winter hard and cold and honest as a neighbor
Describing how her cheating dog-of-a-husband
Ruined the springtime of her life.

Winter and the branches blossom the orange of dusk’s arrival
As towering trunks reveal a thousand un-traveled paths . . .

The brown ice over a muddy spring,
A barn of separating boards bandaged with road signs,
Stumps rising like empty dinner tables above the dying carpet of grass,

An elm through a barbed wire fence propped across a twisted gate,
A wall of stacked, chain-saw sectioned oak,

The molten roof of the neighbor’s house
I haven’t been able to see since March—

Things there all along but hidden.

Winter lifts the walls and roofs off birds’ nests—

Spruce littered with clumps of plastic grocery bags,
Foil from the mouth of a box of cigarettes,
Squirrels salvage into homes—

Exposing the garbage of secrets we hoard,

The moss and knots and scars and twisted limbs.

The evergreens wave their pom poms like dazed junkies
Standing above a floor covered in needles
As summer breaks in the crunch of leaves underfoot.

Winter’s the chain link fence free from the yoke of the honeysuckle,
Breath carving little clouds into the chill,
Fire of a body curling next to yours,

Broken limbs on their patient earthward migration—
The path we all must take—

How insulated our walls are,
The slow erosion of waves of snow washing against the field’s beech cliffs,
The transience of daylight, the diamond tipped drill bits of stars,

The neighbor pacing across the wooden planks of his living room
In the glow of a woodstove or fireplace—

Now that the curtain between us has lifted—

As the rubber teeth of his boots
Saw the house in two.




Night Shift

November, Greensboro, third shift sleet
Laminates each branch of the peach trees
With an organic, transparent
Skin, limbs

So productive this spring, so
Slender and plentiful they broke
And broke

With fruit. Nature never tires

Of trying to impress us
Even if it pulls the same predictable rabbits
Out of its hat

Of loose change. These trees against
The x-ray of
The night are slow
Blood explosions inside

Hardening glass arteries,
Lungs inhaling
An oxygen of sleet

That rings like a river
Of steel wheels shimmying

Under the weight
Of the sun
Rolling in. Soon,

The trees will crack
Their knuckles as localized showers
Develop
Under each

Arboreal cloud; steam
Will rise from the invisible

Fires smoldering inside
Each factory of leaves;

But for now
You celebrate winter’s
Industry

And this is the end

Of your shift,
Though the sun
Will clock in like a good-

For-nothing-freeloading-relative-
Of-the-boss,

Your job is done, you can
Kick off your boots and
Sleep.