The land has given up, lain down
sulking for miles, refusing to stand
up to the heavy press of snow.
From a distance the shaking flakes
swarm in a smoky locust-swirl.
It’s hard to think of smothering—
that loss of air, tightness of throat,
heaving that rises through lungs
halted near the heart. Too near,
the way death struggles, hits home.
Birch trees streak by the roadside:
torn trunks, branches twisting into
sky—bronchus, bronchiole, trachea
filled with growths of snow—bodies
withered, firm in desperation.
I never could figure out why it took
so long for you to tell me. Going
about daily business, slowing down
only to catch a breather as the rotting
swelled from your inside out—
the air became dense in your lungs,
taking life a little breath at a time
until silence was sweeter than speech.
Quiet—as window haunting birch—
their names as harsh as yours.