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At the Edge of Winter

(Mildred Andersson, 1823-1864)

read by the author

Just now I heard the screech-owl
Shiver his scale
Down the darkness, and down my spine.

His voice was older than the snow
That scratches my window
While I lie remembering:

This morning in skimble-skamble wind
I gathered the sheets with their rind
Of ice, and cracked them in my arms;

In the barn the mothering goat
Rubbed her muzzle on my throat
And, suddenly, I was afraid.

Once more, curving to his need,
I have folded his bitter seed
Within my body,

This unknown country I call
Myself, where the new one
Kicks at my wall;

Hangs there, under my heart
With a weight
I cannot shake

Neither standing in the wastes of noon
Nor resting here, where a thin moon
Flowers in the icicles.

Hard awake;
Black
World grinding among the stars.

Hard awake, and dawn
Not come, I listen to the snow sift down:
I listen to the whole house breathing.