Winter Solstice 2020 by Bunkong Tuon

Winter Solstice 2020

My wife takes the kids to see her parents.
I have great plans for the weekend.

I scrub dishes, forks, knives, and place
them in the strainer. I clean the sink,

use stainless steel pad to remove
grease on the sides of the oven.

I windex the glass window.
Darkness lasts forever

Nowadays. The dirt is cold, hard.
Cold rain washes away January snow.

The soil is frozen, bare and dark.
The sky is dark, lonely.

Has it always been like this?
My wife’s yiayia passed away

the same week Toni Morrison did.
My Lok-Yeay passed away

in another state while I was going up
for tenure. My hands and feet are cold.

My uncle said that on her last night
Lok-Yeay opened her eyes and spoke

to people she hadn’t seen in forty years.
She was back in her village.

I sweep the floor, organize mail, scrub the toilet.
I sweep, scrub, scrub, and weep.

*

Bunkong Tuon is a Cambodian-American writer and critic. He is the author of Gruel, And So I Was Blessed (both published by NYQ Books), The Doctor Will Fix It (Shabda Press), and Dead Tongue (Yes Poetry). His prose and poetry have appeared or are forthcoming in Copper Nickel, Lowell Review, Massachusetts Review, The American Journal of Poetry, carte blanche, Diode Poetry Journal, Paterson Literary Review, The Mekong Review, Consequence, among others. He teaches at Union College, in Schenectady, NY.

Three Poems by Jane Ann Fuller

At the Corner of Orchard and Second

In 1989, I lived in a duplex, mid-fix, 9 months
pregnant while the man I married drove

206 miles one way twice a week to weld continuous
Rail for CSX. One room was a peninsula of windows

that leaked heat but leveraged light like
a crystal, so I begged him not to board it up. He smelled

of diesel fuel and I could hear his Jetta turn
the corner of our block when he was back

for pork chops, chocolate pie and sex.
When he was home he mostly slept

or plumbed the crooked floors or punched
out horse-hair plaster walls or left

at 2:00 pm for pulled pork sandwiches
and cans of Busch. Sometimes I’d leave

to find him laughing on a bar stool.
Everyone said what a good woman

I was. We believed together
we’d make something better

of the rooms we’d soon rent out.
When you work and ask for nothing

more, you think you’re right. One night
the baby head-butted me on the bridge

of my nose and someone came right out
and asked who threw the punch.

Today, I run my palm against the grain of velvet
of a doe that stands outside my house. The doe is real.

Its coat, soft as air. I lied about the proximity of hands.

*

Everything’s a Version of You

We thought it might be dead. Remember,
when the bat got in? Trapped
in the shower, it circled the glass, clung
with suction cup thumbs,
dropped like a rag.

I don’t know what we thought.
So, we shut off lights, opened doors.
Through the moonlit kitchen
into the foyer, quick as it entered,
—out it flew.

It’s been twenty years since
you left the house, drove
until first light, found a place
to die on Tick Ridge. You could have been
sleeping in that grove of hickories.

Bats still cloud our streetlamp like
the opening of a cave. Stars slide into
constellations I try to name. Everything,
a version of you here: the bat, little Lazarus
lifts from the floor into a black

sky shot with stars. Once chained,
Andromeda’s a galaxy, freed.
Dead, how brightly, she
courses for a billion years
toward me.

*

The End Of Winter

When I think about the end
of us, I’m chopping onions.
In the distance, a train on the tin horizon
blows across tracks where I could be waiting,
holding my paisley suitcase.

In February, snow knows no boundaries,
blankets us in oblivion. We like it
at first, being tucked in, immobilized
by our lack of control, kick into survival mode.
Portable propane heater. Check.
Coleman lantern, check.
Things seem possible.

When rain begins, ice pelts the ground,
6-8 inches of snow. I’m peppering the roast
when the lights go out and everything powers down.

While we wait for men in cherry pickers to reach us,
we tell stories in the near dark.
I barely conjure the blizzard of ’78,
but you say you’ll never forget
snow stacked so high it reaches the eaves.
You have to tunnel out.

As if what happens, happens twice,
my story of the storm is a white field,
days blown with a random neighbor kid
the winter before the summer
I met the first boy who broke my heart.
I was 14. We both played trumpet in the high school band.
I hear he has twins and isn’t sure he loves his wife.

It’s never the end until you say it is. Darkness holds
us to the heat of love, blankets doubled over like a rug.
In the cold arms of a weigela, a fat cardinal sings.

Scoops of seed, cakes of fat start the frenzy.
Starlings in their midnight feathers, linen finches
flit from suet cage to barren tree, sing their tinny tune of survival.
All they seem to know is survival. Pretty little savages.

*

Jane Ann Fuller’s poems have appeared in such journals as The American Journal of Poetry, Shenandoah, Still: the Journal, The MacGuffin, jmww, Atticus Review, Sugar House Review, Waccamaw, Northern Appalachia Review, Pine Mountain Sand and Gravel, Rise Up Review, and elsewhere, and in such anthologies as I Thought I Heard A Cardinal Sing, All We Know of Pleasure: Poetic Erotica by Women, and It Starts With Hope, (The Center for Victims of Torture). Her collection, Half-Life, was published in 2021 by Sheila-Na-Gig Editions.

Waking to Winter by Sally Nacker

Waking to Winter

I wonder whether I woke to heaven:
the wood all clouds. Out my bedroom
window, only two tall black trees
stand clear, the pines mere smears
of soft watercolor green. Am I afloat
in this new, white-veiled world?

I feel my own breath now, and
the winter dawn on me,
understand that snow, not clouds,
swirls through the wood. Head
on my pillow, I study the squall, lost
in wonder, feeling I woke to heaven.

*

After Soft Pines, watercolor by Holly Hawthorn

*

Sally Nacker was awarded the Edwin Way Teale writer’s residency in 2020 where she enjoyed a week of solitude on 168 acres of nature. Since then she has moved to a small house in the woods. Publishing credits include The Orchard’s Poetry Journal, Blue Unicorn, One Art, Mezzo Cammin, Quill and Parchment, and The Sunlight Press. “Waking to Winter”—in a slightly different version– will be part of the 2022 BRAG Ekphrasis VI exhibit at the Fairfield University Bookstore in downtown Fairfield, CT in April. Kindness in Winter is Sally’s new collection. Visit her website at http://www.sallynacker.com.

Insomnia in Winter by Jessica Purdy

Insomnia in Winter

Puddles merge to form a lake in the driveway.
Plump drops almost snowlike hit the window.
The house is falling into the earth. A sinkhole
eats the garage. It’s getting closer to the kitchen
as I speak. The sump pump drones on mindless
in the basement. My sleep ruined, I’m awake
at 3 am again. It’s not my friend, this un-time.
Undermining and obsessive, my thoughts are brain
worms squirreling into the crevices.
Clothes and bed damp. I don’t want
any fundamental things. No hierarchy of needs here.
My wants are outside myself, but they live inside me.
They burrow down. Earthworms disappeared
back in September. Leaves were disappeared
in November and the blowers have come
and done away with their garbage. What haven’t I done?
Well, I haven’t needed to pee in a while.
I drank water 5 hours ago. The backs
of my knees are slick with sweat. Everything
is damp in December. Who’s got their lights on already?
Their twinkle covers bushes and trees
and glows against the houses. I feel that old
feeling of looking in from the outside.
Briefly I imagine I’m meditating. I’m looking
at myself from above. A fat earthworm
unearthed and bloated in the driveway. Even I have a heart.
Anytime now it’ll be spring again. First I’ll need
to drink a lot of tea. Heat up the car.
Oh, now I’m not meditating anymore.
Was I ever? When the windows fog
I’ll turn on the wipers, the defroster.
Wonder if ever again I’ll see flowers emerge.
Won’t their little expressions be otherworldly?
Won’t they achieve their own greatness
without even looking in the mirror? Their clean faces
scrubbed of any of the dirt they came from,
they’ll subside. Resume their longing
for the days when they had only
themselves to care for. Even the bees
will have had their fill of riches. The worms
will have done their good work. The soil will shrink,
dry out, and lie just as dormant as any old coffin. 

*

Jessica Purdy holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Emerson College. Her poems have appeared in many journals including Hole in the Head Review, Museum of Americana, Gargoyle, The Plath Poetry Project, The Ekphrastic Review, SurVision, and Bluestem Magazine. Anthologies her poems have appeared in include: Except for Love: New England Poets Inspired by Donald Hall, Nancy Drew Anthology, and Lunation. Her books STARLAND and Sleep in a Strange House were both released by Nixes Mate in 2017 and 2018. Sleep in a Strange House was a finalist for the NH Literary Award for poetry. She is poetry editor for the upcoming anthology, Ten Piscataqua Writers: https://www.tenpiscataqua.com/writers/. Follow her on Twitter @JessicaPurdy123 and her website: jessicapurdy.com

Two Poems by Julia Caroline Knowlton

November Song

Praise gray skies, wet yellow
leaves fall to red edge. I wonder

why dark winter moves voices
to fear every day, every night

of the dead. How hard we try
to cover fear with wrong things—

hot meat gravy, a fat gold watch,
words of wool, light cheer.

November song, empty me out
to cloth without paint, barest

branches, a cup without wine.
Move me to snow on evergreen pine.

*

Meditation in Winter

I draw an angel halo on paper,
believing only in paper

not the gold shape itself.
I light candles with a red-hot match.

I sing a bitter song or sweet,
peel apples into butter and taste the past.

I write faint words, wash a dish.
Enter crying darkness coming at last.

*

Julia Caroline Knowlton is Professor of French at Agnes Scott College in Atlanta and incoming President of the Georgia Poetry Society. She has an MFA in poetry from Antioch University and a PhD in French Literature from UNC-Chapel Hill. The author of four books and an Academy of American Poets prize winner, she was named a Georgia Author of the Year for her 2018 chapbook, The Café of Unintelligible Desire (Alice Greene & Co.). Her second chapbook, Poem at the Edge of the World, will be published by Alice Greene & Co. in 2022. Julia regularly publishes in journals including One Art, Roanoke Review, and Boston Literary Review.

In Defense of Winter by Lynda Skeen

In Defense of Winter

The December oak tree
is not lazy or dead.
My winter is
deeply resting,
dreaming,
refracting a drop of frozen winter light
into quiet bliss.

*

Lynda Skeen lives in Ashland, Oregon. She has been published in a variety of journals, including The Halcyone Literary Review, North American Review, Tiger’s Eye, Lucid Stone, Talking Leaves, Main Street Rag, and Poetry Motel.

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

Two Poems by Maria Berardi

December, Cutting the Tree

Shadows on canvas of snow
dancing, eye-catching –
winter’s flowers.

No matter how brilliant the sunlight,
in the cold under the trees
night holds its own.

We bring the spruce home
because it carries this darkness:
a green nearly black.

*

Winter Solstice

Despite the word’s meaning,
the sun does not stop
though we do, into nameless dark:
Here’s the reminder.

*

Maria Berardi’s poems have appeared online, in print, in university literary journals, meditation magazines, and at the Arvada Center for the Arts and Humanities. Her first book, Cassandra Gifts, was published in 2013 by Turkey Buzzard Press, and she is currently at work on her second, Pagan, from which these poems are excerpted. She lives in Colorado at precisely 8,888 feet above sea level.