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Ellen Lager


Inert pines trim a purple-peach horizon,

dawn’s woodcut sky. A coating of white ice pellets

spritzed the lawn overnight. In the first lance of sunlight,

a thousand gems conspire with crystals of snow.


The wind carries the guttural voice of lake ice cracking,

sheer glass fractures, stacks the far shoreline.

This is nature on the brink of release, bred to shed needles

along the winter-whisked trail where I run the dogs.


Two mallards ripple the thin margin of open shore,

dip into the mire of last year’s bulrush.


Soft mud imprinted with deer tracks reveals one small bud

of a princess pine, a tiny faith, its fernlike tentacles

reaching hesitantly toward earth’s greater mending.


In the distance, the keyboard pecking of a hairy woodpecker

awakens the forest. Chickadees unfold feathers

from warm birch cavities, vine through black branches

rigid with the rime of last night’s freeze

rousing dead tree stumps, velvety with spring mosses

glowing green.

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