Nisha Patel, the City of Edmonton Poet Laureate, shares a poem about winter and romance.

like the hoarfrost 

I was once a girl left in the cold
by a careless boy on valentines day
five years later I become a woman who fell in love with herself
when I heard the birdsong above Victoria’s park
went looking for the magpies
and found only the still pond-water
I saw myself in the uncompromise when I was met with Saskatchewan’s
northern caress: no woman is alone when she is solitary,
and no woman is solitary when we have a panting sky above us

which is to say that I want to be held
like the hoarfrost holds the trees over jasper
that I long for the daylight’s gift like I long for a lover
to bring me warmth on even the loneliest of sunday noons.
under the bright rustle of ravine-dwellers
I learn to love winter the way I learn to love myself:
slowly, achingly, laboriously, and a risk of a damp heart

and as I saw the magpies gather onwards
through the sleet and the freeze
heard the burrow of sleepless mice
inside the roots of strathcona trees
felt the wind try to kiss every part of me
desperate for a warm touch in the coldest of nights
I knew that the earth itself was convinced
only the ones who fail to count the snowflakes
like blessing as they fall 
could ever feel betrayed at sundown 

when the day comes for winter to hold me close
and my palms scrape the slick, or my bones snap on the fall
I hope it is a clean break:
that there is no curl of broken nail or fracture keeping us together
that if I stay out here in the cold, it is a choice
to overcome even the parts of me that are fearful

I hope my last cirrus of breath is a goodnight and not a goodbye
that the water in my lungs finds peace against the third eyelid of a rabbit
I hope it is a promise from one body of water to the next that
even if there is a flood of red from my skin to winter’s canvas
I will be remembered in the ice, that when the spring
melts our run-in my warmth will flow
like icicles drip into the grass beneath the snowbanks
those mouths of hungry dirt
churned up at the edge of the sidewalk
that will grow the dandelions and the milk thistle
that will stand defiant of the winter’s flight around the earth once more

I hope my ghost lands gently amongst the slope of a river valley
is inhaled by the dark sky at sunrise and let loose
as the teenagers come shivering home,
that the children hold me in their little fists, roll me up and stick
a carrot in my ear

young ones borne of the fox and hare,
we have more in common with reindeer than we do the sleeping bears,
so when the grey sky demands of us our whole and bleeding hearts
uses them as kindling to keep a season warm again,
let the snow fall on your tongue and melt
into a promise for one more chance
at capturing

Nisha Patel is the City of Edmonton Poet Laureate. You can find out more about her at her website, or follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

You can also hear Nisha read this poem in the intro of our winter romance episode of Snow and Tell – The Winter City Podcast.

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