Produced by Dennis Camire

This week’s poem is by Michelle Menting of Belfast. Her most recent book is

“Leaves Surface Like Skin,” published by Terrapin Books.


First Snow Aubade

By Michelle Menting


Now suncups pock the feeder, and the birds scratch seeds


from flakes. Last night, we thought we heard a loon lost

in the middle of November. How it must have fallen out of August

and spent the months of autumn concussed to finally wake

in this sudden preamble of winter. We were wrong, of course.

In this wind and forest of naked limbs, words are sparse

and the leaves rustle away any sense in our syntax.


This much is true: now is not the partnering time.

The temperature drops outside, and inside the valves of our hearts

solidify as if becoming oak stems: so brittle each pump threatens

to break artery from organ. But this is wrong. We are healthy

but changing and mishear what we say. We want to hear

a loon’s tremolo, we want its wail, its calling to a mate.


We want this longing to be real, and the sound so sorrowful,

it would weep the rime from the cattails in the wetlands.

We want, but even the effort of want fails to surprise us

into thawing. At dawn, on my walk to feed the chickadees,

I found two squirrels. Their heads removed. At the stumps

of their necks, were the reddest berries of blood. And beyond


the knotted fingers of forest, a hawk lifted off from the tallest pine.

When its talons released the branch, frost shattered and fell into flakes

that flashed in the opening sun. With each flap of its wings

the sound wavered, created that false tremolo misheard as wailing.

But I was too slow to cover my ears to block out that bird’s call, its voice

that speared the morning fog, that severed last breaths from warmth.


Dennis Camire can be reached at

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