Judy Jordan

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 JordanJudy 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.