Poem From Which Wolves Were Banished

Jeanne Marie Beaumont

Winter is hogging the canvas tonight.
                               The cat and I lie curved at the edge
                   of the world,
well on our way to becoming a statistic.
                                              On the far side
of white hills, gods propped on elbows
              finger-paint clumsily a road,
                                                                a few trees,
                            blood tracks through snow
and this, the only home that’s known—
               a four-letter word with me in it.

I’ve grown complicated at life and need
               to fold myself repeatedly
                             like an evolving organ.

Winter was simple once,
                                              the year’s spare room.
Sure as the blanks of my eyes
              and covering a great distance.
There poets scanned a row of crows as serial commas
              along a bare, listening branch.
                                                                      Or saw the wind
                           strip off the leaves like gloves.

As though nature were an open book.

Now hardly that, more texture blind
as braille to the sighted,
                           as the animal’s fur I smooth.
How winter gets through us.
Pulse of a season.
                                   (Ribs giving slightly at each breath)
Its truths chiefly horizontal.
              Its drift toward dormancy resisted only
by the upright door, the furnace flame.

What hunts in winter has no store.

I’m half-sure the creature
                                        out in the center of the road
has something in its mouth
so the wind does the howling
                                                      for them both.

But it’s a song I’ve been taught to ignore.
© 2007 University of North Carolina Greensboro


JEANNE MARIE BEAUMONT is the author of Placebo Effects (Norton, 1997), which won the National Poetry Series, and Curious Conduct, forthcoming from BOA Editions in 2004. She coedited the anthology The Poets’ Grimm: 20th Century Poems from Grimm Fairy Tales (Story Line Press, 2003). She lives in Manhattan and teaches at Rutgers University.

Her poem “Poem From Which Wolves Were Banished” received The Greensboro Review’s 2003 Literary Prize for poetry.