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Category: Joe Wilkins

On the Beginning of Winter in Some Lost Industrial City of the North River Country

Coatsleeves. Weeping brick. So the sky kicks down

its cold doors. The woman next door saying

something. Nothing, baby. Nothing,

he says back. I don’t know one thing

about that. The river ice, the sky ice, a boy’s face

ice-wracked: red as flowers, his blood big.

His mother? Where is she? Next door:

Baby, please? You want a cigarette? Baby? Now

like wet factory smoke the dark falling. How smoke

is evidence. How nothing’s

burning. So streetlight. So black hat. Your breath

riding the wind’s bad back down the pocked alley,

up the gin store’s grim bricks, and up, up

the cloud-laddered sky, the stone bluffs east of town—

then to break, fade like common smoke. Up there: big

houses and burr oaks in their vestal robes of snow. Down

here: ropes of icy rain. Sumac’s frozen, broken fingers. Down

here: a man opening a door into some kind of life,

saying, Baby. Baby, I think I’ll step out.

Get me some cigarettes. You want something? Baby?

from Poetry Northwest 05.2 Fall & Winter 2010-2011More by Joe Wilkins from the library

Copyright © Joe Wilkins
Used with the permission of the author
on behalf of Poetry Northwest.

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