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Remembering Winter

I remember winter when it was only
Mostly too cold to swim -
The churning suck and drag of waves under the rock.
Yes, there are flowers - there are always flowers -
But, with the poinciana stripped of leaves,
Its pods like forearms thinned and bent with age,
The rattling of sticks, the hiss of wind,
The broken sea stuck futilely on Wash
With endless turning, churning, foaming pulse -
How long can waves beat on a rock before
The tired rock gives up?

Yes, I remember later northern winters -
The bitter satisfaction of a too-thin sun,
Beauty without the joy, light without heat.
Feet always cold, clothes never quite enough;
Skin drying back from fingernails, lips chapped, throat raw,
The smell of damp coats, never fully dry.

I dream of alternating south and north
And never having to be cold again,
Turning, returning, always in the sun -
Or settling in an equatorial land
And swimming year-round, mellowing on the sand
Flattening my temperature, my will,
Soaking up sun, and dreaming Iím asleep.

Bitter it is, the winter argument,
Betrayed by world that slices off the years,
I have no love of winter, and I feel
Trapped, and betrayer of true kids of mine -
But look - they love it, so Iím further trapped,
Bound to the year that crushes as it turns,
And has become their home - are they then kids of mine?
Ice - snow - the winding down of life and year.

And Iíve known other winters all too well -
Where years of spring gave way to years of warmth,
Blossoms to children sparkling in the light,
The wonders of the worldís sharp sense delight;
Then years of fruit, as independent seeds
Form their own thoughts and follow darkening paths
Falling away, on purpose shrivel up,
And days grow shorter, moods swing soft and harsh
Drizzle sets in for weeks, cold in the bones,
Cold in the head, and colder in the heart -
Thatís how the years of endless winter start.

Bleakness to bleakness, blackness into black;
Lives dry and crack,
Sap gone from tree and house and bone.
Who knew that emptiness could weigh so much?
Give me the strength to last to Spring, or start my own.

Robin Helweg-Larsen

If you have any thoughts on this poem,  Robin Helweg-Larsen  would be pleased to hear them.


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