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

Susan Roney-O’Brien

teaches, reads for The Worcester Review and writes.  Her work has appeared in Yankee, Prairie Schooner, Diner, Beloit Poetry JournalRock and Sling and other magazines.

She has won the Worcester County Poetry Association Contest, the William and Kingman Page Poetry Book Award for her chapbook, Farmwife, and the New England Association of Teachers of English “Poet of the Year” award.

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Just before my brother died
he invited me in—his blood
clogged with glaciers, blue wind
howling in the city of ice,
all the birds gone.

I dropped to my knees. Is this
what you have carried?
But he could not tell me.


Early Snow

Just this morning
the maple glowed in the horse pasture
and a fly threaded delicate feet
through wire crosshatchings
between screen and pane.
Now night shifts through the window
where a few pinprick stars
flicker above new snow
past the glass, past
where the dead fly lies.

When time flares from stars,
we must stay, wait, hold;
winter closes silent
around thistle and rose.
We, in our bodies
of gristle and bone,
have always known beauty
cannot save us, wings
will not bring us back.
There is only one moment,
then the moment gone.


Ice Storm

Still dark—the measured tick of snow.
I rise and light the stove, blow embers red
inside the black firebox. In the night
I dreamed a white cat
thrown against banked snow on the side of the road.

My father curls between sheets, waiting.
Today the surgeon will carve his jaw away,
unroot his tongue to get the cancer.
Nurses wake him now, gently,
to put him to sleep—
the cat’s throat
was an open gash, its mouth full of blood—

I lift the lid of the woodstove—
embers, ashes, a feeble glow—
then crumple today’s news and feed the flames.


Cemetery Pond

Gills rippling as they breathe below the ice,
horn pout and sunfish lead slow cold lives
in the water above the hibernating frogs
shawled in mud. The sky a brittle blue
is the color of tiny bells chiming.
The water has healed over

and an old man skates the glass
of the steep-set pond as smoothly as a trout
glides into water—I can imagine him
sliding into that black world, passing
back and through evolution
until he is slick and silver-sided, his eyes flat,
his body sleek with the run-off of bones.
Rising in spring, a Lazarus,

could he tell me what worms know,
if frogs, in their muddy sleep, dream,
or if a soul is only a human thing?
Would he disclose what he had learned
or hold it fast?
The old man sits,
takes off his gloves, blows on his fingers,
unlaces his scuffed skates.
I walk to my car through the cold
and sit inside. The defroster clears
the ice from the windshield and I pull away
from the granite markers into the road.