Archives of Winter

This poem was previously published at Dispatches for the Poetry Wars, and reprinted in the Poetics for the More-than-Human-World anthology. It is part of the Archives series in The Decadent Review (Archives of Summer, Archives of Autumn).

Four Seasons (Winter detail); Marc Chagall (CC BY 2.0 Chris Rycroft)

My North is leafless and lies in a wintry slime
Both of men and clouds, a slime of men in crowds.

—Wallace Stevens, “Farewell to Florida”


They say it is colder than Mars
in Oneonta today, a
meteorological bomb,
vortex arctic.

The sun in a cloudless sky can’t
pierce the valley’s snow-haze, a blank
mass in the cyclogenesis,
but the news won’t tell you that part.

The weather’s dominion over
our dread has crystallized.
Gray and bare, the thaw reveals
how little we have to discuss.


One must be a stable genius
of winter to hazard the year’s
convention; and have declined the

mayonnaise scissors frozen
in the proceedings of nothing’s question’s
negative as a tool for reading the

palimpsests of frost in the rear window glass
to tolerate the ice-encased branches of their
social-material feed;

and evanesced wind chill
on tongues, the gloom of
failing space, which releases the pale

exhaust of hearing the gravity of snow,
its distance encroaching on
what will be there tomorrow and perhaps later.


There is a slow focus to subzero rhythms,
their heavy thermodynamic tread somber and

replete with anthologies of futurity.
The frigid metals supporting emergency

architecture’s optimistic millennial
forecast cracked beneath the institution’s spectral

weight. Beams of Iceland spar, trellises of halite,
buttresses of quartz razors baroquely latticed

through membranous folds of stalagmitic icicles,
once catachrestically supporting feeling,

their umwelt, were now unconditionally sere,
falling into the unfreezing saline bath of

some insomniac mass, delivered, finally,
to a welcome interpellation of what seemed

an unceasing hemispheric perspective on
their activity. The power environing

these revelatory losses knew nothing of
the length of their shivering and could not regard

their disarticulated pathos as worthy
of medial commentary. Crashing through the

flocculent breakers, they nonetheless persisted
in waking unmeasured reserves of biomass

from their depthless slumber in the sodden tissue
of this forgotten, unmoving paleosphere

structuring a keening foresight about just two
potentialities: ambient quagmire or

perspicacious convoy. If they situate pre-
dawn descriptions of the quaintly stirring valley

against the sibilance of onrushing polar
blasts from the quilting point of their indigent dreams,

they might listen: become droning winter. Later,
at the plodding parade between towers of ice,

their anxiety was exhumed and traded with
others’. The algid alleys’ width dwindled until

only the smallest could keep moving. Too few watched
as each succumbed to the lifeless cold. Others, warm

elsewhere, went on, listless and mute, ensconced in
a different order, but waiting, still. Piano

notes crept along the horizon; weak drums sounded
the radiative background; cellos froze the air.