Winter by Bill Greenwell


Artwork: Sheena Clover

February 1963

Groundsmen like lead; the snail’s tinsel
frozen over; the tongue stuck to the cheek

by a rush of breath; fifty stiff lashes
around a startled eye. This must be

the aftermath of water, the asphyxiation:
that sacred moment when saints faint

because they have been starved. The dog
digs for hot coals, the cat for the memory

of a toddy. Grandmothers wave away fans,
call for the spirit of ’13, when the air

blazed for weeks, when the gas bills stopped.
Not as now, the coins solid in the socket,

the keenest schoolchild sprawled out,
pigtails at angles, cap-peak caught

by the last blizzard, nothing left to do
but watch the sleet on the television, the way

announcers say, without apology,
without flinching, their bow-ties rigid,

normal service will be resumed
as soon as possible

8 thoughts on “Winter by Bill Greenwell”

  1. I absolutely love this poem of Bill’s. It brings all the sticky frozenness of cold to life in such a real way my fingers are suddenly almost too frozen to type …

  2. Great poem Bill. Deftly sums up that winter of 1963 when the ice stayed for weeks and weeks inside and outside the windows. And the pavements were more like Norway – shrunk to a little trail with ice walls piled up on either side. Love the ‘snail’s tinsel frozen over’ – the final line is a ‘wow’.

  3. Love the 50 frozen lashes & the startled eye and the dog & cat both digging. Great ending. Great everything. February is indeed the coldest, cruelest month (at least in Canada it is) … Thanks Bill & Abi – and Sheena for the lovely artwork!

  4. 1963 was my first year at school, so I remember, but Bill’s poem has so many surprising images – loved it!

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