Winter Language

One syllable of blood
and she sank into an almost-
faint, drained to the lips.
Her hair, this season
blue at the tips, swung
a wing across her cheek.
The silky owls on her pajamas
stared, all those pairs
of shocked eyes. “Open
the window,” she cried.
It squeaked with cold. The light
was full of snow. A wren
swooped past to the feeder below.

When she found her cool
again, we cracked wedges
packed with pomegranate seeds.
Sweet as woe and dry
as delight. Both of us
dizzied by her new height.
Open and closed, around
the moon’s clock, croon
the birds, egging her on
to dare the words.


Lesley Wheeler is a poet and professor at Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Virginia. Her poetry collections are: The Receptionist and Other Tales, recently named a Tiptree Award Honor Book; Heterotopia, winner of the Barrow Street Press Poetry Prize; and Heathen. New poems and essays are forthcoming in Subtropics, Gettysburg Review, and Poet Lore, and she blogs about poetry at: