Toughened or Tempered

A mural on a sound
barrier wall won’t disturb

the peace. A movie
flashing on an ice rink dasher

board will not melt. But
air measuring

14 below zero Fahrenheit
with 35 below wind chill will

make your eyes sting. And who will shed
Dutch tears?

Odds Are

A city club awning becomes
the abominable snowman’s mouth
full of icicle dagger teeth. I don’t want to

wake the beast. I walk uncovered,
keep a safe distance
from the fringe. Let snow fall
on my head instead. I don’t believe in

monsters but know my beliefs
have nothing to do with it—winter
risks, or getting struck by lightning come spring.

Prosaic Dream

You are not in
her dream—merely fragments left
behind to prove

you were here. A small sketchbook,
a pair of socks, one
thick glove, a trace

of your carefully constructed
thought. She handles
the sketchbook but

finds an old-fashioned band
flyer with a letter scrawled
on the back

more appealing. Scans
the words—sees her name
near the bottom of the page. Slanted

forward. You know what
they say about that. And then

she wakes up. No idea
what the letter said
about her or who

it was addressed to. It’s 20 below,
and the cat’s licking bedroom
window blinds again.

Despite What You Believe In

Just because she takes
pictures of snow-packed trails
with her iPhone doesn’t mean

she’s a photographer. Writing
a text to his lover
doesn’t make him

a writer. Just because
she flies
first class overseas

doesn’t mean
she’s a pilot (or
waitress in the sky). Singing

“You Sexy Thing”
in the shower doesn’t make you
a singer or rock

star I might fall in
love with. Just because
I checked out

of the Take No Heroes Hotel
doesn’t mean
it will happen again.

All My Favorite Photos of You

for Sheri

Gone. Did the New York Subway #1
train pickpocket keep
them? I shouldn’t have kept them
all in my wallet. I wanted

some—any—scrap left
of you with me
at all times. You had been
gone only a little

over a year. I should have paced
myself. I was too young
and naïve to understand the infinite
nature of your absence. You understood

limits and functions
so much better
than I ever could. And
the symbol

for infinity could be
a pattern we used to scrape out
with our skates
on the Thornton Park Ice Rink.

Almost Thaw

She waves to the engineer
as an abbreviated freight train passes by—

heading southwest. She’s running
northeast now on snow

and slush. Could be quicksand
in spots, could be something

to complain about. But
she’s already said “hi”

to a XC skier and a couple
of women with dogs. Already made it this far

nearing the north end
of Lake of the Isles

without getting frostbitten
or falling down. May as well lean

in and call it
January bliss.