Heavy mists loll above the sodden ground
of a late December thaw. The distance
disappears. Black trunks
of bare trees align.
On a clothesline strung from porch
to oak, handkerchiefs as old-fashioned
as cold winters hang
white corner to white.
Over woodpiles, insects beat raw wings
and flit into mossy mid-season.
Someone throws open a window,
someone else rolls up his sleeves.
What happened to the relief we felt
at that first short day—
the ancient farmers in us at supper
in the shadows of full silos?
We settled in, remember?
Came inside and made peace.
But the quiet undoes us, it does.
The arrhythmic dripping of water
off tree limbs and phone wires
distends the tidy pleats of patience in us,
and pits the filthy islands
of old snow. The handkerchiefs
will never dry, but some quixotic someone
set the basket down in a world
we’d given in to weeks before.
Maybe just this once,
that person must have thought
not by cold but by our own
slim faith and low resistance.
Even now, in a breeze as moist
and warm as a first and forward kiss,
the handkerchiefs stir
again. Maybe, we concur, threatened
tenderly, call us out.