Winter Boys

It’s the full life of winter’s blustery height
ice and flurry and sharp-scented cold
could be mistaken for nature’s call to death
but it’s character, soft landscape, chill flame.

So we’ll pull on big boots and tussle out the door
trek on back to the river frozen deep
jump up and down on the ice until it cracks
walk across water like apprentice Jesus.

Then up along the railroad track, hollering down the valley
teetering on the slippery rails, pounding our chests
at the approaching engine, falling away
at the very last second, down into warm and welcoming drifts.

We pack up solid ice balls, lob them over the precipice
listen for their smack against the distant shivery pavement
then clamber down the hill to the snow-snarled street
dart out suddenly, grab rear bumpers, pogey on the cars.

All the neighbor girls are trying on their delicate skates
they’re ready to giggle across the ice in frilly skirts
they need our trusty shoveling to open up reluctant ponds
and that we do, but we disdain their dainty pirouetting.

We’re tough guys body-slamming each other on the ice
the pond is a great hibernal wrestling ring
it’s only when some peewee warrior cracks his head and wails
that we shrug away from rowdy bickering.

We’re headed out for an icy exploit
ready to revel in the frigid winter world
we’ll chop and stack an igloo fort, or roll up a snowman,
push in lumps of coal for eyes and a dead carrot nose.

All the frail adults indoors, but this our wild universe
we stride right forward into the knifey wind
breaking a path out back to the trees
and we don’t need any big-brother snowshoes.

It’s there in the woods that we’ll build a fire
with matches purloined from mothers’ purses
crisp sticks gathered by our aching mitten hands
suddenly we’re warming and invincible.

All around the sky is milky white and falling
not a sound in the little tree grove
our piping voices hushed and still
as the great being of winter embraces our small daring.