Words by Winter, my brand-new podcast!

Poem of the Week, by Jim Moore

IMG_0342On a moonless night a long time ago, just off the highway, I leaned against a cinder block wall with a payphone pressed to my ear. The only light came from passing cars and a bug-stained fluorescent bulb mounted above the phone. The voice on the other end was bored, disinterested. Across the miles I felt the connection diminishing, no, diminished, no, gone.

I ground my forehead against the wall and tried to sound un-desperate, un-despairing, un-lonely, un-everything I actually felt. At that moment something dropped onto my shoulder and then to the ground – a blob of white putty that turned into an albino frog that then dragged itself away into the weeds. 

That frog and that night still come washing over me sometimes, the way they did when I read this poem.


True Enough, by Jim Moore

         I have forgotten many things.
But I do remember
         the bank of clover along the freeway
we were passing thirty years ago
         when someone I loved made clear to me
it was over.


For more information about poet Jim Moore, please check out his website.

Poem of the Week, by Abraham Lincoln

Photos 967Yesterday I sat at the table all day and labored through every paragraph of every page of a forthcoming novel, trying for the many-eth time to get the timeline perfect, and then I got up this morning and did it again. If Micah disappears on Wednesday night and Sesame starts looking for him on Thursday morning and winter break is a week from Friday and the weekends don’t count then how many days will it take for blah blah blah blah blah. Scratch paper and pen to my right, calendar to my left, stuck in the middle with my own inadequacy. 

Why are timelines so maddeningly difficult for you, Alison? Shouldn’t you be better at them by now? Just how hard can it possibly be to count up the days and make them fit? Very, apparently. This is when I turn for help to this poem, which floats through my head at least a few times a day, written by a little boy who wanted to be good someday. 


Abraham Lincoln, by Abraham Lincoln, age nine 

Abraham Lincoln
his hand and pen 
he will be good but 
god knows When 



Poem of the Week, by Steve Healey

IMG_6661One of my daughters had a friend when she was little, a friend the rest of us couldn’t see. He had a strange name which we all loved. Sometimes we would check in on him. “He’s asleep,” was the most common answer. Sometimes “He’s visiting his grandma,” or even “He went away.” Once, disturbingly, “he died.”

The invisible friend was a shadow part of our family. Mentions of him made us laugh, but I used to wonder if he helped my daughter figure out the world and cope with it in ways I, her mother, couldn’t. It’s hard for me to be around small children, the way they march forward into the world despite their tininess. How their inherent, bewildering bravery propels them toward all the things that will break their hearts. How they keep going anyway.


How About, by Steve Healey

the house is haunted but
all the ghosts are nice ones
mostly nice but sometimes mean
when they eat our snacks without asking
how about there’s a ghost horse
with big snack lips but she’s nice and gives us
slow-gallop rides over furniture hills

all the ghosts are part of our family
but grown-ups can’t see them
how about I’m the daughter you’re the son
or we’re both half daughter half son
half comet half horse
going around the carousel

over there is the black hole where
we ate crackers and grapes today for snack
in that corner all the galaxies
that don’t care if we don’t
say please and thank you

how about Dad never says we have to clean up
this mess because he’s our tiny cute baby
he’s always napping in his crib
or he’s in the room where he writes poems
and inside him there’s a baby who has
another baby inside him

how about the babies have a war 
inside him and become orphans or
how about we’re the orphans in a poem
Dad writes then we’re adopted
by the ghost horse and off
we ride through the snowy air
we say the words 
and disappear


For more information about Steve Healey, please check out his website.

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Poem of the Week, by Ross Gay

Screen Shot 2020-01-13 at 7.55.08 AMThe other night I swooped around the living room to 80’s music: the Police, Prince, Queen. It was late. I was tired. But the day had been too much –all these days are too much, it’s been three and a half years now of too damn much–and the music brought back Vermont and my best friend’s lavender shirt and my red shirt and weekend nights on the Alibi’s tiny dance floor. So I danced it all out. Woke up next morning to the daily dose of awful news and, also, neighbors offering to deliver groceries and medicine, free home visits by a pediatrician, free online classes. Yes, fear and panic are in us, and so are generosity and kindness. 


Sorrow Is Not My Name, by Ross Gay

—after Gwendolyn Brooks

No matter the pull toward brink. No
matter the florid, deep sleep awaits.

There is a time for everything. Look,
just this morning a vulture
nodded his red, grizzled head at me,
and I looked at him, admiring
the sickle of his beak.
Then the wind kicked up, and,
after arranging that good suit of feathers
he up and took off.
Just like that. And to boot,
there are, on this planet alone, something like two
million naturally occurring sweet things,
some with names so generous as to kick
the steel from my knees: agave, persimmon,
stick ball, the purple okra I bought for two bucks
at the market. Think of that. The long night,
the skeleton in the mirror, the man behind me
on the bus taking notes, yeah, yeah.
But look; my niece is running through a field
calling my name. My neighbor sings like an angel
and at the end of my block is a basketball court.
I remember. My color’s green. I’m spring.

for Walter Aikens


For more information about Ross Gay, please check out his website.