Our First Southern Winter
Unexpectedly, in the middle of the night, we freeze.
All we’ve known until now shifts, slips, turns,
makes evident its sense of change, its tendencies.
We should have seen all coming. Even the birds
packed in their nests with our ragged fleece.
Crystal covers grass, pin pricked into burn,
what we feel, only now, as winter by turning
unexpectedly in the middle of the night, freezing
without sheets. Tomorrow we will wake in morn,
in sunlight, in open lawn – we’ll feel all seize
in crystal-covered grass. Pin-pricked into burn,
our feet will slide forward into quick-melt sleeves
of plant life, of breaking cells, of changing season.
We now live inland but I remember arctic terns,
unexpectedly, in the middle of the night. They freeze
in crystal covered grass. Pin pricked into burn
by northerly gales, temperature chasing, they head overseas,
creating ancient patterns, flying southward.
I look for how to recognize winter here. Ferns
cast sideways in morning light, no sound of bees
in crystal covered grass. Pin pricked into burn,
unexpectedly, in the middle of the night, dry eyes freeze.
Awake, cold lends a clarity we never really learn
to expect every year. We think we know yet still the trees
never quite foretell the slight shift, never appease.
In crystal covered grass, pin pricked into burn,
for the first time this year, here, in Tennessee,
this place appears as what we’ve known before. Returned,
unexpectedly, in the middle of the night, as if it freezes,
we encounter a kind of past, intact, interred.
The crystal covered grass, the pin-pricked burn,
melts before morning sun makes its appearance.
Last night’s recognition turns into not-familiar.
Instead of yearning, I make coffee, listen for singing,
leave lights off longer to learn to hear new birds as,
unexpectedly, what was the middle of the night unfreezes.
Jeremy Michael Reed is a PhD student in Creative Writing at the University of Tennessee. He lives in Knoxville, where he's the incoming editor for Grist: A Journal of the Literary Arts and co-directs The Only Tenn-I-See Reading Series. His poems have appeared in Public Pool, Still, Stirring, Valparaiso Poetry Review, and elsewhere. More of his work can be found at jeremymichaelreed.com and you can follow him @jreed1490.