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Last Winter Up Here
By Dan Crane
Genre: Poetry Level: Adult
Year: 2003 Category: UAA/ADN Creative Writing Contest

Angry wind
Screams in our stovepipe
Like a lunatic's piccolo.
Empty oil drums
Beat the door
Begging shelter.

Lights turn orange
Then silently expire
Like old drunks in alleys.
We gather candles
Force feed the fire
Stay close.

Our road glazes and hardens
Glares at us; we joke
That just glimpsing it
is enough
To make you fall down
On the spot.

In Asia
Smart bombs
Probe private places
So nobody
Over there
Jokes about anything.

In Texas
Accounts dry up
Like the plastic bags
You see beside the roads
Impaled on barbwire
Wind-ripped and spent.

We hear of these things
On a cheap little radio
Dug from a closet
Pregnant with fresh batteries
Its voice full
Of self-importance


At breakfast
Our mutt bums a chunk
Of smoked sockeye
Glistens at once
With its oil
And our love.

Distant snow banners
On the Kenai range
Scour stoic peaks
Beyond our windows
Beyond our reach
Beyond our knowing.

Trees explode around us
Grasping at each other
Clinging to wires
Bruising the ground:
Blow-downs made
For a hungry stove.

Our bull goose
Stuffed with bravado
Struts and flaps
Across the driveway
Slips on the ice
Like a clown on skates

Skids twenty feet
In a heap
Feathers and down
Hopelessly cross-threading
His once blaring voice
Turned into a squeaky fanbelt.

A morning nip with coffee
Welcomes in the holiday,
Then we plow through drifts
And find our way
To frosty trash bins
Dispose of ribbons and bows.

I rescue an old Coleman
To mate with one at home
Before they both die.
Dumpster diving on Christmas...
I'm just fine with it,
It feels religious.


Some weeks later
A woman in a kayak
On wind-tossed waters
Suffers choking salt
Hands the mystery
Of her dying over

To tides and newsprint.
We see waves from here,
Miles off, and never
Catch her helpless effort
Our focus wrong
Our lens screwed down

To our tight winter world.
We mourn a stranger
The best we can,
But poorly; we crack
A book of celluloid sailors
Our family album

Our boats and friends
Our cozy little circle.
What luck
To trick these seas
For thirty years
And wash up here!

Out on the spit
In the pit of night
Lonely lights still pulse
As if that stranger's heartbeat
Beneath those wrinkled waters
Echoes in their filaments.


Peace descends
In middle February.
Senators and tax collectors
Rub their soft hands.
Women here crowd seeds
Into greenhouse windows.

Our old dozer on snow duty
Starts growling for dirt
On this hillside,
A surly bachelor bear
Shaking off the ice
Of yet another winter.

Out on the edge
Fresh fish are stirring
In the heavy depths
Moving toward us again
With sex and hunger
In their souls.

We sharpen hooks
Buy a pail of copper paint
Drive down to the boat.
A voice starts
Its ancient whisper
In our blood.

We stir
As dead men jerk
When probes touch nerves
As bulbs break frost
When lava
Rumbles way below.

One morning an egg
Shows up in the duck house...
Our cat slips out
For the first time
Since equinox
And leaps at birds.

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