I recently graduated from University of Mary Washington with a BA in English. I am a married father of two small children and a high school English teacher in Sugar Land, TX. My poems have been published in Pif Magazine, Denver Syntax, Zodiac Review, and others.
To Isaac, Born in Autumn
I envied you the season of your birth;
the date did not matter.
While you slept inside
your sleeping mother I
laid my hand on the pale
partition between us,
ticking off the dull, endless days
of your brisk maturation.
I thought of all the personal gods,
the parts of myself
that I might sacrifice for your sake,
to reverse the connotation
of the name
that arrived long before you.
Outside, each individual leaf
on each shuddering tree
and all at once the world began to burn
in order to show itself brightest
at your nativity.
The air smelled of
thin blue smoke on the day
I drove to meet you. I found myself
surrounded by yawns encased in cars,
by cinders kicked up by rolling tires,
by drab, sleepy people
who misunderstood or
even failed to question
for whom the conflagration
brought the flaming freight
of each crackling bough
crashing down upon their windshields.
I felt sorry for them;
they would never get
to behold the howling little fellow
for whom the leaves curled and crisped
and turned vivid in the rapturous
wind of midfall.
We cannot return here,
to this rowdy alcove where
collide and laugh and loose
We cannot sit on this
earth, this spongy slough that becomes
the desert each summer,
this fence-framed oasis that becomes,
the frosted crown
of the world.
Here the wind makes excitement from exhaust.
Here we fought
with lips and loved
That love is just as we left it;
it belongs now
to someone else who
knows how to take it
Here we gazed at the bellies of clouds
and crowed like kooks,
unashamed and in plain view.
Here we knew what love is,
but not what it would one day be.
Here love is
that has not yet become
that has not yet become
that has not yet become
a lone leaf,
nodding like a fool
at the end of
A Walk with My Daughter
You cannot match your steps to mine, not yet –
still you try, and your trying delights me
more than your success will, the day it comes.
The power lines, the coughing cars, the shouts
of protesting dogs imprisoned indoors:
memory will obliterate these things.
We’ll remember the walk, not the walking;
the conversation will replace the route,
and you will replace me with some giant.
The day will come, and with it other days,
days when you walk, nervous as I am now,
an oblivious child at your fingers.
You will understand then what the walk is:
an exercise in vigilance, watching
winged shadows as they rip across the short path.
If you view the ocean through the glass you cannot hear
the gulls objecting to their lot; the feathers jutting
from the sand look just like baptismal candles waiting
for flames. You cannot hear
Styx coming in on waves of wind or see
the anatomically incorrect female figures
limned in sand with sticks by boys
who shivered their way back to their parents’
blankets once their work was done.
The smell of Smokey Joes cannot reach you;
nor can the cold and the grayish grit kicked up
by phantoms that stalk through the rising, dismal dark.
Here, with the fireplace at your back, you can mistake
whatever you like for whatever you please.
You take the dim tableau and render it idyllic,
and your glass is thick and energy-efficient
and out beyond your window the surf pounds
with silent violence, slams
its skeletons into the sand,
draws them away and out of view before their forms
can be assembled behind the glaze that covers
your eyes like a quivering veil of translucent lace.
I am stomping up the mild hill
that leads to the back of my house.
Either the dryads are hacking,
underdressed for the autumn wind,
or the squirrels are hailing one another
from their newly visible nests.
I leave the woods behind me,
my eyes on the dark rectangle
from which I will later look out
to where I am walking now,
though it will be too dark by then
to trace the oblique path I take.
When the other children are here
we break apart at this point and streak
for the front yard, and Mick will follow
us, flattened football or indeterminate
animal pelt dangling from his snout.
And the leaves herald our coming,
rioting, scrambling pell-mell
across the lawn, tumbling
like vaudevillians. The goal line
lies between two trees, one of them
a pardoned Christmas tree planted
twenty yards from our front porch.
Tonight I am alone, retracting
my hands inside crisp denim sleeves
and huffing, breathing white smoke
from the woodstove out back. In years
to come I will remember how
these lost hours formed me. I will
think of the damp earth that ripped
holes in the knees of my Bugle Boys,
and imagine petty fistfights recounted
in reverent tones by Shelby Foote.
And the winds that careened off
Winding Road will find me again.
©2015 Jeffrey Winter