WINTER BEFORELIGHT by John Timpane

winter-beforelight

WINTER BEFORELIGHT
by John Timpane

Winter beforelight.
Lamp by lamp the house of night
shuts. Dawn enlarges;

a father turns off the lights,
loves each room for lives it holds.

On the railing of
the bridge across the creek, wind
and sunfire scour, sculpt

snow into equidistant
amygdaloid ivories.

Footprints in the snow:
in each footprint lies a leaf,
in each leaf the light.

First fell the light, then snow, then
the footstep, then leaf, then light.

Morning frost remains
only where shadows fall. Let
the sun rise enough

to warm, let my shadow with-
draw, let your frost disappear.

False spring: the pond thaws
at the edges, leaving a
pond-shaped heart of ice.

The chapped corners of my mouth
attest to advancing age.

In the fremitus/
crepitus asthma-winter,
this flensing wind, truth-

fullness, writing writing wri-
ting writing all the damn times.

Blazing in the night,
fiery feather cirrus,
sword dividing the

winter sky, ice-auroras
inflamed by backlighting moon.

Hard light without heat.
Heat without light is harder,
consumption in the

midst of nothing, leaving
the one who burns in darkness.

for Rocky, our golden Lab:

With his heat—as he
snuffles, fails to recall, nos-
es into ever-

y damn thing—the snow cradled
between Rocky’s shoulders melts.

Snowfall muffles the world
of hunters and hunted. Starved
hawks faint, fall from pines.

In silence’s enclosure
owls moan, kings of loneliness.

On a wind-ripped night
bells at a railroad crossing
swinge back and forth:

what passes in darkness, what
sounds long after there is need.

Where fireflies glowed, stars
remain, but they are frost. Are
these the firefly souls?

When frost is what I am, will
you remember me as fire?

After snowfall the field
is a book of quest and flight,
trots, treads … ellipses,

signatures of the dragged tail.
A new snowfall: erasure.


john-timpaneJohn Timpane is the Books and Fine Arts Editor/Writer for The Philadelphia Inquirer and Philly.com. His work has appeared in Sequoia, The Fox Chase Review, Apiary, Painted Bride QuarterlyThe Philadelphia Review of Books, The Rathalla ReviewPer ContraVocabula Review, and elsewhere. Among his books is a chapbook, Burning Bush (Judith Fitzgerald/Cranberry Tree, 2010). His poem “In a Dry Month” appears in Issue No. 1 of Cleaver  and his poem “A Cricket in Washington Square Park” appears in Issue 14. He is the spouse of Maria-Christina Keller. They live in New Jersey.

Image credit: Aaron Burden on UnsplashJohn’s headshot courtesy of Jessica Griffin/Philadelphia Inquirer

Comments are closed.