Joel Long

Late Life Winter

I hate days to come, one of them
empty.  One of them has trees with no
meaning however they flower, unfold
in green or gold.  That day none of it
matters.  Perhaps it is extreme to hate
them all before they have the chance,
for waters to look pretty in sunlight
that is bound to fall, such apparent
grace, quietly near stillness, and this
is my exact fear: quiet, that stillness.

My mother is alive.  She counts pills
for her husband who is at work on her name,
saying it again to make sure she’s still there.
This I understand.  Is that you? his refrain.
I know it is her, in the kitchen cleaning
the countertops with a rag, in the kitchen,
putting leftovers in the fridge, maple trees
out front agitated by the coming storm
that begins another winter, and one day,
is it this winter?  Is it next?  It will seem
all the animals are dead.  I can’t stand
the fact of it, the blunt blow.  The sun is dust.
The cold cannot be cold enough—it doesn’t
break me at once, every word turned ice.


Joel Long’s book Knowing Time by Light was published by Blaine Creek Press in 2010, and the press published a second collection Lessons in Disappearance in 2012. His first book Winged Insects was the winner of the White Pine Press Poetry Prize and was published in 1999. His chapbook, Chopin’s Preludes was published by Elik Press in 2005, and the chapbook Saffron Beneath Every Frost was published by Elik in 2007. His poems have appeared in Sweet, Quarterly West, Isotope, Rhino, Gulf Coast, Bitter Oleander, River Oak Review, Crab Orchard Review, Bellingham Review, Poet Lore, Sou’wester, Apostrophe, Prairie Schooner, Weber Studies, Willow Springs, Sonora Review, Mid-American Review, Roanoke Review, Red Wheelbarrow, Blue Mesa Review Ellipsis, Seattle Review, Monteserrat Review, Spoon River Poetry Review, Coal City Review Evansville Review, Hurricane Review, Interim, Karamu, and New Orleans Review, among others. His poems are forthcoming in The Pinch. His poems have been anthologized in American Poetry: the Next Generation, Essential Love, and Fresh Water.

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