Winter Without Snow

James Maher

Brooks snuffle over rocks and sneeze
through rapids. Wind can't clear
the fog and phlegm from its throat
no matter how it sputters and hacks
and heaves its rib-cage of trees.

Shrubs are such ragamuffins
that there must be pictures of them
in a magazine ad telling how they've
never had chicken soup or a single
friend, and you can adopt them

or you can turn the page.
But no matter where you turn
earth is sprawled bruised and wheezing
and wrung so thin that the roots show
and gaping puddles fester and run

as you run like a distracted nurse
with hair askew and stockings fallen
you consult thermometers and plant
placebo seeds, idly promising: White
bandages by Christmas, White bandages . . .


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