Moving Ice Flows   River Ice
Wintry Moods

The grassy clearing just up the road from my lane is

where I come to bathe in the summer.   It is not

a thought lost on me as I stand in the clearing

looking out over the frozen river.   Some weeks

before the ice had started as hand sized pieces.

It is a puzzling site from a distance if you

don't know what it is; especially if it snows

a bit & the little ice flows are capped with

small mounds of snow.   With time & cold the flows

get larger and larger.   Still soft & slushy, they

make a hissing, shushing sound as they rub up

against each other.  If you were quiet,

and there was no wind, the hushed shhhhhhh . . . could be heard from the house at night.   If cold air

keeps biting, the bigger flows run out of room to run & the river freezes over.

Since the last storm, the air has stayed bitterly cold and the river quit running altogether some days ago,

leaving a windswept waterscape of puzzled together ice.   Some of it is clear and is the color

of the black, dark brown river.   It is a broken, swirling, uneven mosaic of white, brown & black.

  Deeply drifted snow, running along both banks, creates two thick unbroken white lines,

hemming in this frozen alley way, up & down the river as far as I can see.

Standing at the water's edge, looking through a clear

spot in the ice, I see water running beneath it;

the air bubbles being pinched between the ice &

water.   Water and air squeezed along

like white lava.

Just down river of the clearing a beaver has been

gnawing on a large poplar tree since the fall and it

finally fell onto the frozen river the day before.

The tree lay where it fell, its upper limbs half

sunk into the ice.   Large chunks of ice lay

strewn about on the river ice where the poplar

broke through shattering the pack.
   White Lava

The limbs going into the water are being jerked around like a pole with a fish on the line.   The moving

river beneath stubbornly tries to carry the tree off down river.   For now the effort is in vain.

Except for where the limbs have broken through, the tree lays squarely atop the ice.   The butt of the trunk,

all gnawed, broken & splintered, is still perched up on the short, steep bank where it tore away

from the stump and rolled down the through the drifted snow toward the water's edge.

In the dwindling twilight a narrow brisk wind moves down the river pushing along a flock of old leaves who

nosily hop & skip across the ice.   More & more leaves from along the banks are drawn into the flurry.

Some getting trapped in the downed poplar blocking the way.   Most, though, hurry over & through,

only to build into a broad dervish just downstream of it.   The breeze lifts off, scattering the flight, leaving

only the quiet rustle of falling leaves and the sound of the river gurgling as it gnaws away at the poplar tree.

Twilight   Just as I turn to leave, there is a lone scratching

sound.   Looking back out across the darkening

ice, one dry brown leaf is being gently pushed along.

It moves & stops & moves & stops as it gets coaxed

along by some invisible noiseless whisper.

A blue, rusty red light is all that is left of the day,

& the lonely leaf slowly scratches its way down river

like a mouse scurrying through the shadows.

Again I turn to leave, shivering at the sound of the

leaf alone in the dark.

Walking back up to the house, the smoke coming out

of the chimney is falling down into the yard

& fields beyond.   The still night air holds the drifting smoke close to the ground, filling this bottom land

with the smell of burnt wood and coal.   I can no longer smell such a mixture of twilight & fire without

feeling a coming winter storm along the banks of the South Fork.

As I turn in that night listening for

the building storm & coming snow,

there is a hot fire in the little coal

burner.   Light escaping through the

small draft vents in the top door dance

around the bedroom walls.   Drifting off

to sleep, I hear the lonely leaf scratching

along the river ice.   The hot stove

pipe creaks and clinks.

I let go a shiver under the warm bed covers.
  Bedroom Coal Burner

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