Poem of the Week, by Lianne Spidel

When I was little I read a novel called “A Lantern in Her Hand,” by Bess Streeter Aldrich. It was about a pioneer woman, surprise surprise (you wouldn’t think that there could be all that many pioneer woman books, but take it from me, there are) who homesteaded on the plains. The husband in that book has stayed with me lo these many years. His name was Will and he was so kind (and goodlooking). This book was one of my favorites ever, and my mother cried when I described the ending of it to her, in which the long-dead Will came walking back across a field. This lovely poem brought that whole book right back to me: the small worn paperback copy I had, the picture on the front cover, the scent of cut grass (I must have read it in summer), the love that man had for his wife.

Snowfall at Solstice
– Lianne Spidel

I wonder if this might be the night
when you decide to go, with snow
stippling the screen of your small window
and you snug in your chair, wound
in an afghan, full of shepherd’s
pie and the sugar cookie dunked for you

in tea. You are at peace. Listening, you
feel the soundless weight of this night,
starless, without sentinel or shepherd,
as heaven comes down to earth in snow
to level each crevice, seal each wound,
fill the cup of space outside your window.

The courtyard framed in the window
is all that remains of the world you
knew, a place where whiteness has wound
the tree with garlands heavy as night,
where there is no respite from snow,
no landmark to be seen by shepherds.

In young years, friends—winter shepherds
and maids—summoned you from any window
when the sky threw itself blue over snow,
over the ice of the Rideau. With them, you
learned ski trails curving into night
up the Gatineau, and every path wound

its way through some adventure, wound
magically toward one who would shepherd
you through cities on starless nights,
whose homecoming you awaited at windows,
who carried your furred boots for you
through seventy winters of snow.

He will find his way in winging snow,
white-haired, a woolen scarf wound
at his neck, coming from darkness to you
stooped but sure-footed as a shepherd,
an overcoated angel reflected in the window,
stamping from his shoes the snow, the night.

When you choose, take the shepherd’s arm, leave
the narrow window, walk safe with him by night
out where all stars are wound in snow.


For more information on Lianne Spidel, please click here.

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Poem of the Week, by Lianne Spidel

The workshops I teach, at my non-traditional, designed-for-working-adults university, are filled with all kinds of characters, with characters meaning people: tattoo artists, auto mechanics, journalists, pearl-wearing grandmothers, cops, military vets, hairdressers, graphic designers and you name it, you get the picture. Within the first class, friendships and alliances are formed. I can’t even call them unlikely alliances, because they aren’t. People are people, first and always. “A gentle affinity.”
Summer School
           – Liann Spidel
Because I needed to know for a poem,
I asked the science teacher sitting
next to me (the one they teased
about his massive chest) to explain
to me the composition of a cloud.
He had already told me he was there
only for the credit, a step up
on the salary scale. His wife
wanted a bigger house, the kids
were growing, he was overwhelmed

with bills and coaching.
I said, “When you’re my age
it will empty out.
There’s too much, then all
at once there’s almost nothing.”

When he answered me about the cloud,
his voice went soft:
“Moisture on dust,” and when
I asked him “in” or “on,”
he said it didn’t matter

either way. We never shared
a coffee and spoke only
of casual things, a still viable
jock and a graying grandmother
pretending to concentrate on the course

content, side by side through indolent
hours, easy in the peaceful co
existence a couple of prepositions
had provided–a gentle affinity,
pleasure like moisture on dust.

​For more information on Lianne Spidel, please click here: http://www.poetryfoundation.org/bio/lianne-spidel​

My blog: alisonmcghee.com/blog

My Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/home.php?#!/pages/Alison-McGhee/119862491361265?ref=ts