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Winter Poems

By Kathleen M. Tenpas (KathleenJanuary 2, 2014

Winter is a long season here in the hills to the east of Lake Erie. It sometimes starts in October and lasts until May, but it always takes all of December and January and February, filling the shortest days and then the lengthening days with cold and snow. It gives me time to consider the season.

Gardening picture

(Editor's Note: This article was originally published on February 6, 2009. Your comments are welcome, but please be aware that authors of previously published articles may not be able to promptly respond to new questions or comments.)

The Wind

swings around
to the north
and dried leaves left
on the little maple
rattle with the chill.
Bright days and crisp nights
lead us to the solstice
and promises of flurries
decorate our minds.

Crack the Whip

December rain
falls chill
temperatures rise
fall, rise
ice threatens
snow comes, turns to rain
goes over to snow
the jet stream
snaking, playing
crack the whip

Patchwork clouds

clothe the evening sky
quilted by small flights
of late season geese,
new snow hangs heavy
in the cedar break
and small birds
stitch down the drifts
under willow and pear tree.
December settles into itself
heavy on atmosphere, and unapologetic.


Our world is busy disappearing into a snow storm,
house and barn become ships in a white sea.
A gust takes us far from where we know
we still ride the sweep of the west wind
on an anchor of inland hill.
In this moment
we taste the wildness.


In January

The house becomes my skin,
I shrug from room to room
a chameleon slipping
one color aside for the next.
Losing track of where I started,
looking for lost notebooks
finding scraps of poems
leggy and straggling like seedlings
yearning for the sun,
I pause for a moment
to consider them
but move on, restless
as a caged cat, hungry
for wilderness and winter stars.



The calligraphy of tree shadows
across morning snow
tells old stories, new each day.


January Thaw

January’s thaw
washes over us
ebb and flow
of rising temperatures
mixed precipitation
a week and a half
of false hopes

disappearing in ribbons
of snow, rippling out
in a bitter north wind.


the Calling

The moon, one night from full
and a hand of clouds amid the stars

holds the night,
calling the girl I was,
standing by a frozen pond
watching moonlight
lay a path across the snow.
My axe broke ice
and slid it out,

the moon dazzled in dark water
and the heifers moved around me

hesitant to drink the glimmer.
I watched the moon,
yearned to drop the axe
and walk the gleaming path.

Tonight, I stand
behind window glass,
feel the cold that called me then
knot my joints, and send me shivering

away from the path
still waiting on the snow.


calls from the dogwood
then the sourwood and back
wonders why I’m so late abed,
sun rising in a mist of ice
the farm a crystal bowl.




Winter Sonnet

It is winter, and I eat like a bird
a small bird, say a chickadee who eats
her weight each day, fluttering in absurd
antics to get at the feeder, to beat
the jays and doves, grab a beak full and split.
She perches on a pear branch, ruffles up,
chatters about the unfairness of it,

flits back in.  Watching, I fill my teacup
amble to the cracker keeper with those
ancient freshness crystals my grandmother
trusted to keep the staleness out and close
the crispness in like a hidden treasure.
With a mouthful of crumbs, I remember
my childhood. It didn’t work then, either



Old Moon

Yesterday, the golden crescent of an old moon
woke me, bright above the horizon
an hour before the sun,
but while I looked for it today,
thinking I should catch its gleam
just before sun up, it wasn’t there,
losing itself instead in the brightness
of February’s icy flare.
For two days now, it will ride the day
leaving the chill stars to glitter
brighter in their ways, as winter stars
are wont, and we will wait
for it to choose first dusk, then dark.






All poems copyrighted property of Kathleen M. Tenpas and used with permission

All photos property of Kathleen M. Tenpas and used with permission


  About Kathleen M. Tenpas  
Kathleen M. TenpasWe have a grazing dairy of 55 cows in the rolling hills of western New York State where we raised two daughters who have now blessed us with four grandchildren. I have messy, jungly beds of old roses, (some real antiques left by former owners), perennials, wildflowers and lots and lots of not so ornamental grasses! I have a Masters degree in Creative Writing: Poetry from Antioch University. I am a photographer and fabric artist and I bake a mean loaf of bread.

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