Winter for a Moment Takes the Mind
{An Umbrella Special Feature}

Judith H. Montgomery’s

poems appear in The Southern Review, The Bellingham Review, Gulf Coast, Northwest Review, and Evansville Review, among other journals, as well as in several anthologies. She’s been awarded prizes from the National Writers Union, Americas Review, and Red Rock Review, and several nominations for Pushcart prizes. She’s also received two fellowships in poetry from Literary Arts, as well as an Individual Artist Fellowship from the Oregon Arts Commission to work on new manuscripts (Blue Field, Burning and Inter/View).

Her chapbook, Passion, received the 2000 Oregon Book Award for poetry. Her first full-length collection, Red Jess, appeared in February 2006. Her new chapbook, Pulse & Constellation, appeared this summer from Finishing Line Press. Her essay “Becoming Shiver-Man,” will appear in a forthcoming anthology (Poem, Revised) on the process of revision.

—Back to “Extra” Contents—

Blue Horse Weather

This poem’s not about winter weather
howling down the gorge—or black ice that spares
no blade or bough cracking under blue
crystal—midnight wind that scours cover—
or approving stars that sanction snow
sleeting down the flanks of a lost, chill horse.

It’s night, it’s bleak night, and the neighbor’s horse
is stalled safe in oats and straw, weather-
ing the storm in a sturdy high-beamed barn. Snow–
their snow—is quilting soft drifts behind the spare
generator that the neighbor’s snugged under cover,
waiting for emergency to glow corona-blue.

No, this poem’s blowing to another blues-
storm: the wither-wind that aims to unhorse
a woman from her bones, to strip the cover
from her heart and set it out in icy weather.
She chills down to a slow stir, spared
no shelter in the soul’s descent to snow.

If this were a poem about hope, the snow-
light would waltz beneath the moon, unblue
the haughty beauty of the stars. A spine-spare
trail would light her to the stable, to the horse
whose blown breath would warm her against weather,
whose deep heat would allow her to recover.

She studies the dark valley, hoping to discover
whether she can ride out the storm, unwind the snow
sheet from her heart, stiff in bitter weather
that ices her arteries from red down to blue.
She wills her thighs to feel an August horse
rising out of moonlight–saddle-blanket to spare—

who would bear her straight to heat, not spar-
ing hoof or lung, where the sun would draw a cover-
let of stars to warm her till she gallops like a horse
spring-loosed in pastures greening under snow,
alive to swallows pouring from the barn, blue
wings arrowed into heart-mount weather . . . .

But she spares her heart the hope of summer weather.
Seals her bones, uncovered to despair. All blue-
veined, she saddles the chill horse. Heads deeper into snow.

[Originally published in the chapbook Passion (Defined Providence Press, 1999)]


Hardening Off

Each night, detach
the heart. Set it
out in zero.
Latch the door.

By morning,
each chamber, each
banished ventricle,
will lace in ice.

Re-attach. Repeat.
Your heart will feed
on frost, numbing
bone & blood.

Each day chill
a little deeper,
& so prepare
for mourning

without wound
when your dearest
depart. This is
no lie. I swear it

on my acclimated heart.

[Originally published High Desert Journal, Spring 2007 and subsequently in the chapbook Pulse & Constellation (Finishing Line Press, 2007)]