Soldiers and the Snow

  1. December has frozen the double-edged
  2. breath it blows from frozen skies
  3. like a dry fire unraveling in threads,
  4. like a great ruin storming down on the soldiers.
  5. Snow where horses have left their hoofprints
  6. is a lonesome place where grief galloped away.
  7. Snow for ripped hooves, mangled claws,
  8. heaven’s wickedness, absolute contempt.
  9. Snow snaps, hews, slashes through
  10. like the awful blow of a bloodshot and trifling stone axe.
  11. Snow plunges, storms down like the melting embrace
  12. of canyons and wings, solitude and snow.
  13. This belligerence, split off from winter’s core,
  14. this raw hunger, so tired of being hungry and cold,
  15. threatens the unclothed with an undying grudge
  16. that is white, fatal, starving, mute, and dark.
  17. It wants to fan forges, hatred, flames,
  18. it wants to stop up the seas, and bury love.
  19. It goes around heaving up huge diaphanous barriers,
  20. tongue-tied statues, and feisty slivers of glass.
  21. I wish the hearts of wool in all the shops
  22. and textile mills would spool over,
  23. and cover bodies that kindle each morning
  24. with voices and glances, with feet and rifles:
  25. Clothes for corpses that might go naked,
  26. dressed in nothing more than frost and ice,
  27. in withered stone that repels the hard beaks,
  28. the ghastly pecking, the ghastly flying-off.
  29. Clothes for corpses that dumbly battle
  30. the snowiest onslaughts with the reddest bones.
  31. Because these soldiers have sun-fired bones,
  32. because they are roaring fires with footsteps and eyes.
  33. Cold lurches on, death is stripped of its leaves,
  34. the uproar is mute, but I listen to it; it storms down.
  35. On white snow, life is red and red;
  36. it makes snow steam, seeds the snow with fire.
  37. Soldiers are so much like rock crystals
  38. that only fire, only flame shapes them,
  39. and they fight with icy cheekbones, with their mouths,
  40. and turn whatever they attack into memories of ash.