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Nathan Hoks

Winter Refrain



Another bird comes to my window.

Like me, it needs to be released

From the hell it carries in its little head.

Like me, it lost its warble. Maybe beneath

The moldy potatoes stacked in the silo.

Maybe in the dead squirrel’s stomach.

Maybe in the lizard’s glass box

Which smells of woodchips and animal

Which is why no one visits the house.


Is the bird looking for the wall of butterflies?

Or is it listening for the wall of sound

That houses the queen

Whose eyes make our stomachs warble?

She loves vermouth and marbles.

She loves to mouth her ice water

And builds pendant nests with mud and reeds

And leftover candy wrappers.

When she winks, the yard fills up with snow.

When she sighs, the sky infiltrates the shed.

Sometimes her sentences stop in the middle,

Waxing half moons that slam into reverse.


She wants the moonlight to go back

To the shade it was before the fern died.

She knows the reedy bird must shiver

But no longer sing, trying to ignore the warbling sky

Which is blue though not the jewel the mind makes

As it envisions the child’s face warped around the steel silo.

The face in the window. The face in the tree.

The face in the cupboard with sugar, vanilla, and tea.

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