Nicole Stellon O'Donnell

Winter, Moving Still

You want to believe nothing
stays awake through the freeze.
But you, who need a coat,

a cabin, a fire burning
in the stove, down
bag and pillow,

you’re the one who burns
something else to survive.
Ask why.

Your answer, an accounting
of small things: vole tracks,
rose galls, frost shriveled berries

still on the branch, the crunch of snow,
ice-crackle, the shush of a sheep’s jaw
chewing the last browned grass.

Your stolen,
illuminated breath clouds
the cone of headlamp.

Put out the lantern,
let the stove-tick
sing you to sleep.

Its song is younger than the owl’s,
who is younger than the moonlight
and the shifting lights in the sky.

They all came before you,
and while you sleep,
eyes closed, they keep
always moving.


Winter Landscape with Flirting Tourists

On the Savage River
where overflow
crackles underfoot,
the couple, so bundled
they seem synthetic,
shouts and packs failed snowballs
out of too-dry snow.

I want to say,
that doesn’t work here,
but who am I not to let someone
find out on their own,
so I pass them on the trail,
thin jacket and bare hands.
Who are they to define cold?

And who am I to define anything?
They have all the words today,
bright syllables built
of the pull between them.
I have the trail’s styrene crunch
and the hush of exhalation.

I take a picture of a rock,
of wind-scalloped snow,
while they take a picture
of the hazy mountain
as they walk the river
in the opposite direction.

I come back in the quiet,
past the trailhead,
past their rental car,
while the trees seem
to inch closer, asking
who I am to be here.

Photography of writer Nicole Stellon O'Donnell
Nicole Stellon O'Donnell
Nicole Stellon O'Donnell is a poet and essayist who lives in Fairbanks, AK. Her novel-in-poems, Steam Laundry (Red Hen Press), won the 2013 WILLA Award in Poetry. Her writing has appeared in Prairie Schooner, Brevity, Beloit Poetry Journal, The Women's Review of Books, Bellingham Review, Los Angeles Review and other journals. She is a winner of an Individual Artist Award from the Rasmuson Foundation and a Boochever Fellowship from the Alaska State Council on the Arts. Visit her website.
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Last updated: March 29, 2017

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