White Christmas

Joseph O’Brien

Forecasters generally consider a white Christmas to be an inch of snow on the ground or an inch falling that day.
—news item

But along the river bottoms, snow found no place,
When we went walking there
After life, abrupt, stillborn, fell apart.

Your flustered hands gently wrestled
With the chill in the folds of your overcoat.
Frightened doves, they could not bear to be held,

Holding to themselves
In a barren nest untouched by tenderness,
Yet wanting to fly from flesh to flesh.

I knew you as one who lived in minor chords;
Your falling apart was only the latest note,
Inescapable as the ache that comes with snowfall

Disintegrating a forest’s edge in a flurry of silence,
The nudging ache that waits forever
In newborn fields of untested whiteness.
And I knew your latest sorrow,
Like the winter twilight in your eyes, always
Tinctured by stars and snow.

Setting your hopes on a white Christmas,
You put a quiet faith in the world’s poor weather
And stood to hear the rat-scratch of cattails

Nervously tapping the crusted river’s edge,
Where you scanned the overcast skies with eyes
Dark, damp and beautiful as a forest floor

Always an inch away from drowning in joy.