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

Mary Ann Mayer

is a poet and occupational therapist. Her first book of poems, Telephone Man, was published in 2005. Her work has appeared in two anthologies and several journals, and is forthcoming in Raven Chronicles and the Bryant Literary Review.

With her husband and German Shorthair pointer, she divides her time between southeastern Massachusetts and the White Mountains of New Hampshire.

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Elegy for the Trees

An angry man bought the hillside.
Hungry for blue bigness

he chain-sawed the trees;
he smashed the nests—the birds fled.

I wanted to write an elegy for the trees,
that old comforting wood. I wanted to,

but couldn’t—being so full
of anger.

It’s bitter cold—sub-zero, and this jay
blue and clear on the branch below my window,

this jay: no song-bird, not sentient
yet here,

shining in low sun, red berries of mountain ash,
a dark crown animating the branches—


The Cold Is Scratching Like Monkeys

The cold, the hard-assed cold,
               the boning up of the landscape, the valley
                              seen through the picture window spidery with ice.

And the six of us together on the couch in a rented A-frame
               under the airy rafters, praying to the heat, please don’t rise,
                              drinking bottles of hard stuff, waiting for an opening,

even one chance to peel off the long johns
               and get naked just long enough to slide
                              into a hot bath, but no one does.

circling the living room, taking turns
               checking the thermometer  
                              thick with rime outside the glass slider.

House-partying on a minus twenty degree weekend,
               a ski holiday bracketed by Friday and Monday’s
                              warming trend to zero, not counting wind chill.

No skiing. Aimless picking at olives and cake,
               thumbing through Travel & Leisure’s Caribbean issue;
                              Thanks, which asshole brought that?

This cold is snowless,
this cold is six pair of skis taking refuge inside,
this cold won’t wipe off your shoes,
this cold is scratching like monkeys,
and the bony dog—her nickname, brush pile
hard against the kitchen stove.

We joke about taking a group walk
               down to the village at four pm or four below,
                              whichever comes first.

  shot glasses pile up in the sink;
               the six of us thick on the couch