Winter Archive

Tonight, steel mesh of constellations and a die-cut moon. Flames in the northern sky

and sirens — another fire in an old hotel. Every hour on the hour you wake and listen

to the spectral speech of freight trains arcing through the troposphere, the arguments

of snow ploughs and the wind. With a pencil you perform a night translation, a kind

of composition in your sleep. You thought you might transcribe the weather, document

the customs and geography, the architecture of the place, but in this city nothing lasts

for long, the memory not a storehouse but an exhalation, crystallized. The breath

of a boy locked out and forced to wander through the streets on New Year’s Eve, alone.

You don’t know why they’re haunting you, these phantom children and their deadly

accidents. They’ve escaped out of a film you watched in elementary school each year

before the holidays, grim lessons about winter safety. In this morning’s paper,

tales of robbery and arson, stolen cars. A photo of the burnt hotel, its transformation

overnight into a palace made of icicles, an arctic fairy tale about amnesia.

Catherine Hunter’s books include the crime novel Queen of Diamonds (Turnstone Press) and the award-winning poetry collection Latent Heat (Signature Editions). She teaches at the University of Winnipeg.