Poem: Act of Defiance


Act of Defiance

Minus three and the porch groans under your feet.
The snow, crusty and hard, crunches with each step.
Your lungs burn with the cold, wondering
what madness sends you out when more sane people
sit inside by their fires and furnaces sipping coffee.

You walk, past the town, past the fences of farmers
and deep into the woods. You walk slowly, like an old man,
each cell of you raw with cold, raw with the pain remembered,
the pain of winters long past whose cold still lingers in your bones.

But it is not the cold you are remembering now,
as the frigid air probes your layers of flannel, seeking
entrance to crawl into and under your skin.
It is the surviving you recall, that despite every mistake
and underestimation of the implacable evil of cold

and your own woeful ability to protect yourself, you survived
that first horrid winter of hate, and emerged
broken and scarred and yet somehow wiser and more beautiful,
less trusting of your own wisdom, and more trusting
of the kindness of those you once counted as strangers.

The forest is nearly silent. Only your footsteps break the spell
and eventually they too, cease. You are warm,
the tightly layered clothes and coats and scarf do their work.
Your eyes scan the lake. It is still.
All life has burrowed itself in wait for the next thaw.

It is your act of defiance this ice-bound walk,
your declaration that you have learned the lessons of winter,
lessons not just of surviving the things that wish to kill you,
but of surviving your own lack of understanding, knowing
if you can survive that, then there is none who can defeat you.

About this poem

Oh the mistakes I have made! And oh the gratefulness of coming out on the other side!


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