Winter Words

I remember how the dead leaves we piled into mounds
Over the dry winter-brown grass that December afternoon
Echoed the crunch of papers you balled up and carefully built
Into pyramids in front of our fireplace to throw into the fire:
Black-inked words that drowned in beautiful blue flame.

If I could walk back into our house, into that day,
I would kneel, Sphinx-like, among those piles of words
And utter a riddle that would surround us,
Not undecipherable, yet unnecessary to answer,
Whose edges would catch fire and burn and burn
And burn and burn forever.

But, no: our words had lain unvoiced upon our tongues—
My riddle hovering unsolved in the space between us.

Wordless then and wordless still, I rebuild into piles
All of these dead leaves that are now illegal to burn,
And shape them into a riddle of sound decipherable
Only by melancholy…and longing.

As I set these leaves ablaze, I recall a dream in which our eyes
Followed our hands along our glowing bodies as we rubbed
Each other warm before a fire that burned and burned and burned
With other people’s words.

As I set these leaves ablaze, I forget how to remember your face;
Winter folds me like a blank love note into its cold and empty embrace.

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