You do not have the flu.
The cat is not sick, nor the dog lost.
The bitter cold has not burst the pipes.
The firewood is dry enough to catch the perfect flame
thrown by the ordinary wonder of a rough-struck match.
The small, wild things — plumed, delicate —
fly hollow-boned to the feeders you have filled,
harvest the seed-scattered deck you have cleared.
Drink from the heated bath, ringed by ice.
Two degrees at daybreak. Brittle and beautiful.
The deer mouths grain from a clearing in the snow,
her face flecked with frost,
the coarse, thick coat encircling her graceful body
and likely another: this spring’s fawn
who might be born on a day
you cannot imagine
and rise on spindly legs to nurse,
and grow strong and sturdy beside this doe.
And return next winter, face flecked with frost,
swaddled in her coarse, thick yearling’s coat,
mouthing grain from a clearing in the snow.
Or — on a day you cannot imagine —
die in her mother’s womb.
Or be taken by a mountain lion.
Or a bear. Or a car. Or a mystery.
On a day you cannot imagine
you will not be able to shovel snow
or fill feeders, or offer grain.
Or be dazzled by the red nape
of a woodpecker’s neck,
or the dark geometry of shapes
cut on a bright blanket by the winter sun.
Already you are not what you were,
but — this is important — not yet what you will be.
And no one you love is dying, on this day.
On this day, you can still do;
you can still declare beauty
on this winter’s day.