Features, Poems

Carol Light: “January Walk”

“January Walk” began as a post-squall “nature walk” writing exercise, in hushed company with a–fishing now for a suitable collective noun: sord? siege? muster? ostentation?–of eighth graders. Breaking the silence meant yanking the whole skulk back to a fluorescent-lit classroom, and no one wanted to be held liable for that. With sharpened pencils and index cards, we huddled through woods to a duck pond behind the school, recording observations of cattails and red-winged blackbirds, which we later composed into poems. I wrote alongside the flock, and found this poem calling back to an earlier sonnet of mine, started more than fifteen years ago, in a time of far less forgiving storms. Thanks to Kevin for his superior ornithology, and thanks to my Blue Heron brood of writers for walking me through this poem. (Carol Light)

January Walk

The wind has twisted the tops of hemlock and fir;
cones and needles spatter the muddy path.
Rising from nearby chimneys: wood smoke and ash.
A cold mist washes my cheek and cattails stir
the breeze, climbing dried and broken reeds
while birdsong mixes swift, twitter, chit,
and sparrows hide among the rosehip thickets.
My jacket snags on tangled arches, while beads
of dew fall from the vine. The year begins
anew. I thumb the cat-tongue underside
of a blackberry leaf, startled by its thorn.
One snapped branch divides our trail. The winds
have spun so little down. Despite the wide
weather warning, this time we missed the storm.

Carol Light’s poems have appeared in Prairie Schooner and Mare Nostrum. She earned her MFA from the University of Washington and teaches middle school on the Olympic Peninsula. She lives in Port Townsend with her family.

“January Walk” appeared first in the Fall & Winter 2010-2011 issue of Poetry Northwest (v5.n2).