[36] Winter Solstice, Marjorie Stelmach

Again this fall, like squirrels, we scrabble
barely ahead of our hunger.

Nights are colder, the daytime sky
as brittle as a promise on the brink of break.

On the football field, the marching band
in full fringe and cockatoo plumage

blares a Polonaise flattened by an apathy
of brass and a single laggard drum—

but four straight defeats? This season’s lost
by any measure. Soon, grimy drifts will lean

against a chain-link fence so cold it rings.
Gutter ice will flaunt a malicious grit.

Cringe and hunker the only sane postures.
The cheerleading squad will choose to see it

as a test of mettle. Coach will claim it’s a season
of re-building. You’ll tell me one more time

that spring will come, the days lengthen,
the squirrels again stuff their little faces.

I know, I know: it’s promise after promise
in this world, each one of them iron-clad.

Until it isn’t.

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