Winter’s Toll by Melanie Figg

Winter’s Toll

The deer are starving.
Summer was too dry and snow came too soon
and too thick. They usually don’t come out
of the woods until February. It’s almost Christmas
and they’re in the trailer park by ten.

My mother died a week ago.
We cleaned out her refrigerator,
found two bins of apples
she had no energy to can
and left them for the deer.

After bar close I drive in slow: two doe and a fawn.
For a minute I feel lucky—to see animals so hungry
they’re at front doors eating
Christmas wreaths. One doe swings her head,
watches me park and go inside
my mother’s house. They keep walking,
looking for apples on the snow-covered lawns.

*

Melanie Figg’s debut poetry collection, Trace (New Rivers Press) was named one of the 100 Best Indie Books of 2020 by Kirkus Reviews. Melanie has won grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, The McKnight and Jerome Foundations, the Maryland State Arts Council, and others. Her poems, personal essays, and book reviews can be found in dozens of literary journals including The Iowa Review, Nimrod, and The Rumpus. As a certified professional coach, Melanie teaches creative writing, offers women’s writing retreats, and works one-on-one with writers and others. http://www.melaniefigg.net

Gears of the Night by Dawn Sperber

Gears of the Night

for Jennifer Simpson

The night before Christmas,
people were busy in their lit houses.
The moon kept revolving all the same.
The tide headed out, then returned,
headed out, and returned.
The shoreline breathed the rhythm.
The bugs bored into the trunks
of the trees behind the factory.
Tick, tick, tick went their tiny teeth.
The metal slats across the overpass
clattered each time a car drove past:
clac-clack, clac-clack.
Then, the traffic cleared
and only crickets sang.
Out from the darkness, a pickup sped by
—clac-clack—
and the pigeons under the bridge
lifted in a swirl and swooped away.
There was a snail working
his way up a drainpipe.
He’d stopped and rested some hours,
his slime hardening on the corrugated metal.
With no fanfare at all,
he returned to his journey up the pipe.
The moon noticed but said nothing.
Why would it.
On Christmas Eve,
outside of the busy, lit boxes,
the gears of the night turned onward.

*

“Gears of the Night” is dedicated to Dawn’s dear friend, Jennifer Simpson, devoted writer and literary community member extraordinaire. Jennifer led Dime Stories in Albuquerque, was co-founder of Plume: A Writer’s Companion, volunteered for years at the Children’s Grief Center, and among her many other efforts, she hosted the drop-in writing group, where Dawn wrote this poem one year ago. 

On December 12, Jennifer Simpson suddenly passed away. She was a beautiful ally to many people, in countless ways. This piece is shared in tribute to her influence on the writing community. Go to talkstorypublishing.com to learn more about Jenn’s various projects and check out the fine books her press published. 

Dawn Sperber’s stories are forthcoming in Daily Science Fiction and Zizzle Literary, and her fiction and poetry have appeared in Bourbon Penn, We’Moon, NANO Fiction, Going Down Swinging, PANK Magazine, and elsewhere. She lives in New Mexico, where she’s a writer and editor. You can find more of Dawn’s work at dawnsperber.com