Tuesday, December 24, 2013


The cold, that had receded, now comes back
And all, who do not bundle up, will freeze,
Unless they either are content or forced
To huddle where there’s heat enough to thaw.

And some will find this bracing.  Others curse.
And others yet will bear with it with grace.
But some will falter – fall, as winter’s staff
Lays low the feeble or unwary ones.

For ice and concrete are a lethal mix,
A cruel trap that's set.  An elder’s bones
Can rarely stand the impact of a fall
Upon that surface, polished, slick and hard.

And others start to sneeze and cough and then
To take to beds – or struggle still to work.
And some recover.  Others worsen, die.
And so it’s been, whenever winter comes.

From harsher climates, roared the Mongols, Huns
And all the murderous tribes that ravished lands
Where others, far more docile, grew their grain.
So empires fell and others rose in place.

And yet, how varied are the winter’s folk –
From Inuit to Norse to Kalmyk clans –
And at the southern tip of western lands,
The Patagonians of the fire and ice.

And here, in New York City, we’ve a taste
Of what the Amerindians bore, in moccasins.
But being by the world-encircling sea,
We’re spared the rigors of the lands within.

But as I hunch my shoulders, bending down
And pulling hood and cap yet tighter ‘round my head,
I realize I’m walking here within
A zone that’s colder than my freezer is.

No primate, save perhaps the yeti, which
May well be more of fable than of fact,
Has ventured where the nakedest of apes
Has gone – and even settled, in its arc.

Does climate shape a culture?  Surely, yes.
The ones that grew in milder, coastal climes
Have features that are different from those
That dealt with winters cold or summers harsh.

But scratch an Eskimo or Fuegan and
You’ll find a bonobo that longs for warmth.
And Viking women, pale from the sunless past,
Will shiver still from cold and strip for sun.

So those with means escape the winter’s cold
And soak in warmth on sunlit tropic isles.
But workers here must venture out to work,
And back again, in freezing cold and dark.
2013 December 24th, Tue.
Bensonhurst, Brooklyn

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