Magazine December 20, 2021, Issue

Angels Will Not Breathe Your Mortal Weather

(aetb/Getty Images)

During a cold spell, the people depart
Like ghosts. No one outside. No more bullshit.
No barking neighbors or beggars’ ballet.
A frozen football. A paralyzed cart.

Free of traffic, the town blinks through torrents
Of glare. You’d shout for joy, but a mile
Gives your feelings the boot, as on you ramble,
Past the grade school, the mill, and the chain restaurants.

Your breath curls like steam and the air’s made
Pure. And that insurrection of a chill
That pierces every layer? It doesn’t thrill
Like nerves or the defenses of the blood,

But as if the raw unsullied slope stretched
Its length to guard the purpose it concealed.
Yours are the only …

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Novelist and critic Lee Oser teaches English at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts.

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