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winter re-visited

WINTER RE-VISITED

Road

The road that is ice leads to the water. Which is ice. Leads past the bedroom of the house where the old woman died in her sleep, her spine fused till she was something translucent, cold. Ice itself. Like a similar road which leads past the house where the wife, recently separated, sits alone in the kitchen loving the man still, listening for the sound of his truck, the bark of the dog, on the frozen drive. The same icy road that cuts across the fields. That cuts through the woods. That leads to the weathered house on the edge of the frozen lake where the road ends, where the old couple, partly blind, partly deaf, glide past each other like solitary skaters.
Is this frost on the windowpane? What is she saying?
Can you see my breath?
Where did she put the matches? It snows all night.
Nobody remembers this road anymore.

Windowpane

He is outside himself again. Running errands for bread and milk, morning mail, and occasional visits with the lonely, the desperate, the dying.
Isolation, illness, death make him come alive again.
The view is white. The long shadows of trees in a late afternoon sun the color of a lemon dropped in snow.
He inhabits the talk of neighbors, strangers, friends, loved ones. The talk of radio announcers and television news commentators. The world is invisible;
violence visible as love.
“Taste this,” he tells a loved one, disenchanted in his dreams.
To open the door inside again he needs magic, not the magician . . . the top hat, the black cape, the wand. Not the language of abracadabra.
To see behind mirrors through glass again. To pick slivers out of the palm of his hand. To rub the bark of birch. To root the fields and find the bird just before song and substantiate the night.
To see in the dark.
Suffer blinding light.
Touch, touch, touch the frosted glass to tears.

Love Untold in Two Landscapes

The world no longer exists for the middle-aged.

Not a story but a life.

He remembers walking over the burnt landscape. The canyon. The ravens. Making love, her head hanging over the edge.

He remembers walking over the white landscape. The bluff. The gulls. Making love, her head hanging over the frozen shore of the lake.

She wanted to meet him for a long time. Tell him I’m here, she tells herself. He knows.

People do not know how he hides in landscapes. Protective coloring.

He should tell her: Life is erotic. Or nothing. She should tell him: Your life belongs to something else.
Not me.

Unclothed, she almost makes him seem young again, though he, engaged in entering her, ravens circling above, stares over her hanging head, deep into the bottom of the canyon, part sun, part shade, part echo of a scream.

He and she bare to the middle movable parts, in the middle of their years, he makes her seem young again, though she, riding him, gulls pulling down the horizon, stares over his hanging head, mouth silently agape, tasting snow, tasting her come forward, sensing that ancient darkness before love, blue sky below.

Death and memory.

She gets to the bottom of him, he gets to the spirit of her.

She takes him again on a mud floor, the smell of native incense burning.

He takes her again in a barn on a bed of hay, and the smell of apples in a wooden crate.

Feelings of youth.

He reminds her of the first bite into a hard apple. Of sweetness. Of apples rotting.

She reminds him of ex-lovers and spouses, lost children, lost landscapes, aging flesh.

“! wanted to see how far we both would go.”

“I wanted to remember where I’d been.”

Who leaves whom?

The last time he was left with: a pickup truck, $300 in the bank, and a shelf of old National Geographies.

She was left with nothing. Which adds up. He gathers wood.

She gathers pottery shards.

He kicks off a pair of frozen boots.

She lets slide a Spanish shawl from her shoulders.

In the end, almost, she retreats to the top of a mountain she is physically incapable of climbing.

He walks in fresh falling snow with his .22 along the edge of a deep woods. And enters.

She hates him. Follows the rim of the canyon home. And takes the life of the most playful kitten in the new litter, deliberately, accidentally.

A shot, unheard, in the winter woods.

The death of romance.

[from: WINTER BOOK, Norbert Blei, Ellis Press, 2002]

10 Comments

  1. Beautiful pictures. It is good to revisit Winter Book.

  2. Robert M. Zoschke

    December 11, 2009 at 4:36 pm

    Marvelously stunning excerpts of wonder from a marvelously stunning book…how fitting to find The Coyote has posted these stanza mosaics in particular, after the particular snowstorm stanza that just recently bludgeoned us with the particular eerie grace that only the savage and treacherous winter woods of far northeastern Wisconsin can provide. How fitting that anyone reading this Blei Post is reminded of Blei’s Winter Book, steadily one of his most popular books in terms of bookstore sales, come rain or shine or sleet or snow, spring summer fall or winter. Winter Book. The one that hardly anyone talks about but people keep buying and digesting and pondering. For the generations of year-long residents, Winter Book is the finest kind of book a serious writer could ever put before the natives…it cuts deeper than expected, it means too much, and whether the exact words are put to it in the reader’s mind’s eye, it is a book that encompasses and drives home with a heart-lust life-lust poetic hammer the only two words of reaction that any serious writer cares about–Brilliant and Outrageous. Seek and Ye Shall Find the proverbs of the ancient wine guzzling net throwing fishermen purportedly decreed. They never had the snowshoes to make it up to Door County, Wisconsin. They never had the moxie to make it up here through too many winters that blend into one-worst-and-only-best time of year. But they had their historic spiritual part in laying out and documenting Their Own Version Of The Greatest Story Ever Told. Their Man With A Plan wound up on a cross for the courage of his convictions. It takes an outsider from the underground serious writer to show the residents and the visitors what no one has shown them before, to tell the stories they never realized before needed to be told. Buy a copy of Winter Book if you haven’t yet done so, read it, digest it…and then you’ll know…the special brew that percolates in poetic scribe blood no matter how lion-heart fierce the luscious dwelt of winter and yearning embers of spring can deepen.

  3. Geezus Norb… After reading your haunting and bone-chilling description, I’ve had to do the equivalent of throwing another log on the fire — I nudged the thermometer up another degree and took a deep sip of my hot coffee. It is afterall only 7 degrees where I’m at… a mere 200 miles south of you on Lake Michigan.

  4. It’s very cold at the end of the road, and it gets darker every day. Beautiful winter.

    Jerry

  5. Absolutely stunning!

  6. Norb
    Nicely said
    it’s a bitch to be lovelorn at Christmas

  7. Exquisitely chosen words, chilling and perfect. Thanks, Norb, for best gift of the season.

  8. That old lady with the congealed spine is moi! Great to revisit the Winter Book with new insights. However! This is much too serious! Where is the guy with the pink rubber soles like exclamation marks? Hmmm?

  9. robert wershay,mayor

    December 12, 2009 at 4:12 pm

    Once again Norb Blei, Blinded by a brillant flash of the obvious has masterfully put words and pictures into harmony !!! Well done !!

  10. Words with meaning, Words with power that give life, direction and instill in us that peaceful, quite, safe feeling, that all is going to be ok…..Thomas OCon

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