Io That First Winter
Winter seemed never ending with its crows,
lumped clouds, and sifting snow, its frantic finches
and its jay who screamed thief, thief as the glazed
saplings fell along the buckled asphalt. Beyond
the border, in that far country, the sky stretched
to the color of wet steel, water pooled in the cows'
tracks and footsteps echoed across the slick boards
laid against the mud but still I folded the soft-edged
maps, packed away the guides, the compass,
the square, dismissed the proofs and theorems,
the very idea of a pivot point and drove from the city
and its biting flies which never slept. Closed doors
of houses with their many eyes of glass clasped shut
whizzed past as I clamored from packs of dumped dogs
howling sorrow into the night and cats who leapt
from the storm drains' grates and with one swift
neck-breaking claw, snatched the acorn-busy squirrels,
those bundles of chittery fur for whom living
must seem like nothing more than moments
piled on moments of sheer, terrifying luck.
Which is how I felt—except for the luck—
when I moved into the half-collapsed
greenhouse. That's how it was that winter. Gravel
slivered in ice, plant pallets feathered with mold,
bare-boned limbs of trees leaning over fields strewn
with stubble. I settled in, solitude growing exact.
Peacocks cried, ever-watchful tails fanned
as grasshoppers chewed their way up from their cold
graves and all the roots tunneled underground, iris anxious
to rise above the knives of themselves, hyacinths sloughing
off old skin, readying to burst forth, while Callisto,
that Great Bear, slogged on across heaven's horizon.
Judy Jordan's first book of poetry, Carolina Ghost Woods, won the National Book Critics Circle Award, the Academy of American Poets Walt Whitman Award, the Thomas Wolfe Literary Award, the Oscar Arnold Young Book Prize of the Poetry Council of North Carolina, and the Utah Book of the Year Award for Poetry. Her second volume, a book-length poem, 60 Cent Coffee and a Quarter to Dance was released in 2005 by Louisiana State University Press. Her third manuscript Hunger, which centers around two years of semi-homelessness during which she lived in a half-collapsed greenhouse is with Louisiana State University press.