A Slice of Whisperwinter by Tobi Alfier

A Slice of Whisperwinter

I watch the low clouds as they smolder
a sky the color of opaled satin.
Bare limbs, branches gnarled
like ancient almswomen saying
rosaries, etch my frosted window.
Somewhere the sun casts a weak afternoon
light on quiet snow, the flakes gentle
and silent as they anoint the shoulders
of men rushing home, black jackets
and black gloves, each with a briefcase
they’ll profess to open later, once
warmth and whisky has made
them human. They have kissed wives
who followed the same route earlier
from shops— for chickens and turnips,
a spot of cake. They have wrestled
their sons, hugged their daughters,
eyed the clock to call out evening duties
as a conductor calls the arrival of trains.

And still I am alone. Five months
given to drought. A woman rare,
scented of roses and spice, a laugh
tender as the early wash of daylight.
She would have loved this snow,
and loved me in it. She wore mittens,
not gloves, one hand to wrap around
an ancient city streetlamp, the other
to reach for me. Now I’m just a vague
remembrance to her, like the stranger
she passed this morning in a half-open
doorway, measuring the weather with
open palms and steaming tea. Chimney
smoke inscribes the air, stains the needles
and bullets of each different snowflake
a rotten mahogany. Strange how something
so lovely can be called so violent. Thus
is the story of my salvation—outside,
the gaining snow takes everything it wants.

Tobi Alfier is a multiple Pushcart nominee and multiple Best of the Net nominee. Her full-length collection Somewhere, Anywhere, Doesn’t Matter Where was published by Kelsay Books. Slices of Alice & Other Character Studies was published by Cholla Needles Press. She is co-editor of San Pedro River Review (www.bluehorsepress.com).