Ten Poems for December

Winter Love

I would like to decorate this silence,   

but my house grows only cleaner

and more plain. The glass chimes I hung   

over the register ring a little

when the heat goes on.

I waited too long to drink my tea.   

It was not hot. It was only warm. 


- Linda Gregg


Winter Solstice Chant

Vines, leaves, roots of darkness, growing,

now you are uncurled and cover our eyes

with the edge of winter sky

leaning over us in icy stars.

Vines, leaves, roots of darkness, growing,

come with your seasons, your fullness, your end.


- Annie Finch


The Buck in the Snow

White sky, over the hemlocks bowed with snow,
Saw you not at the beginning of evening the antlered buck and his doe
Standing in the apple-orchard? I saw them. I saw them suddenly go,
Tails up, with long leaps lovely and slow,
Over the stone-wall into the wood of hemlocks bowed with snow.

Now lies he here, his wild blood scalding the snow.

How strange a thing is death, bringing to his knees, bringing to his antlers
The buck in the snow.
How strange a thing,—a mile away by now, it may be,
Under the heavy hemlocks that as the moments pass
Shift their loads a little, letting fall a feather of snow—
Life, looking out attentive from the eyes of the doe.

- Edna St. Vincent Millay

In Winter

At four o’clock it’s dark.

Today, looking out through dusk

at three gray women in stretch slacks

chatting in front of the post office,

their steps left and right and back

like some quick folk dance of kindness,

I remembered the winter we spent

crying in each other’s laps.

What could you be thinking at this moment?

How lovely and strange the gangly spines

of trees against a thickening sky

as you drive from the library

humming off-key? Or are you smiling

at an idea met in a book

the way you smiled with your whole body

the first night we talked?

I was so sure my love of you was perfect,

and the light today

reminded me of the winter you drove home

each day in the dark at four o’clock

and would come into my study to kiss me

despite mistake after mistake after mistake.


- Michael Ryan



It waits. While I am walking through the pine trees

along the river, it is waiting. It has waited a long time.

In southern France, in Belgium, and even Alabama.

Now it waits in New England while I say grace over

almost everything: for a possum dead on someone’s lawn,

the sing light on a levee while Northampton sleeps,

and because the lanes between houses in Greek hamlets

are exactly the width of a donkey loaded on each side

with barley. Loneliness is the mother’s milk of America.

The heart is a foreign country whose language none

of us is good at. Winter lingers on in the woods,

but already it looks discarded as the birds return

and sing carelessly; as though there never was the power

or size of December. For nine years in me it has waited.

My life is pleasant, as usual. My body is a blessing

and my spirit clear. But the waiting does not let up.


- Jack Gilbert


In the Winter of My Thirty-Eighth Year

It sounds unconvincing to say When I was young

Though I have long wondered what it would be like

To be me now

No older at all it seems from here

As far from myself as ever


Walking in fog and rain and seeing nothing

I imagine all the clocks have died in the night

Now no one is looking I could choose my age

It would be younger I suppose so I am older

It is there at hand I could take it

Except for the things I think I would do differently

They keep coming between they are what I am

They have taught me little I did not know when I was young


There is nothing wrong with my age now probably

It is how I have come to it

Like a thing I kept putting off as I did my youth


There is nothing the matter with speech

Just because it lent itself

To my uses


Of course there is nothing the matter with the stars

It is my emptiness among them

While they drift farther away in the invisible morning


- W.S. Merwin




Like a child, the earth’s going to sleep,

or so the story goes.


But I’m not tired, it says.

And the mother says, You may not be tired but I’m tired—


You can see it in her face, everyone can.

So the snow has to fall, sleep has to come.

Because the mother’s sick to death of her life

and needs silence.


- Louise Glück



I have taken to talking to trees
in midwinter; never those at the edges
the safe ones gazing at the highway;

I go deep inside where the snow
is powdery, crystal under light.

We talk, the branches rub together
like insects hissing

the cold calms even my jittery heart;
the silence is absolute here.

Each step I am startled by the hollow
echo of leather on brittle snow.

- Kwame Dawes

First Sight 

Lambs that learn to walk in snow

When their bleating clouds the air

Meet a vast unwelcome, know

Nothing but a sunless glare.

Newly stumbling to and fro

All they find, outside the fold,

Is a wretched width of cold.

As they wait beside the ewe,

Her fleeces wetly caked, there lies

Hidden round them, waiting too,

Earth's immeasureable surprise.

They could not grasp it if they knew,

What so soon will wake and grow

Utterly unlike the snow.


- Philip Larkin


I want to be a passenger

in your car again

and shut my eyes

while you sit at the wheel,


awake and assured

in your own private world,

seeing all the lines

on the road ahead,


down a long stretch

of empty highway

without any other

faces in sight.


I want to be a passenger

in your car again

and put my life back

in your hands.


- Michael Miller

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