Sunday, January 11, 2009


First Day of Winter
“All secrets are witnessed.”- Barbara Kingsolver

Somewhere glaciers that haven’t
moved for hundreds of years
shift ever so slightly, give
birth to currents only lantern fish see.
Somewhere the last leaf drops
unnoticed from the limbs of a dogwood,
lands square on the back of a beetle
who stills at the sudden shade.
At the same time a tropical storm
rises anonymously in the Gulf of Mexico,
geese fly through sheets of ice pellets
that never make it to the ground,
rain floods island lowlands,
mud crawls down a mountainside
swallowing a house whole,
the only witness a lost llama,
teats swollen and weeping milk.

Here the rusty chimes wake me
from dreams of sailing
together across glassy water,
I warm my hands on a coffee mug,
watch thunderclouds roll
across the sky in a pattern I’ve never seen
while your unborn daughter
sends tidal waves up her mother’s spine,
still deciding if conditions are right for travel,
and when you call to tell me,
your voice crackles on the line--
I know there must be lightning
but the clouds are so thick I can’t see it.

- Irene Latham

How 'bout that illustration? A wonderful artist Jeff Faulk, who goes by Monk, penned this one, and it appears in my book WHAT CAME BEFORE. Love it!

Somehow I missed the most recent first day of winter, but I did, in fact, write this poem on an actual first day of winter. It's one of those pieces I'm not sure I completely understand myself, so I am especially interested in how others interpret it.

How mysterious, the birth of a poem...

“Birth and death are not two different states, but they are different aspects of the same state. There is as little reason to deplore the one as there is to be pleased over the other.”

- Mahatma Gandhi


  1. WOWWW! This is a gorgeous, amazing poem that I need to print out and carry around with me. So much to digest and relish here. Thank you so much for sharing it.

  2. I agree. Truly gorgeous. I wish I could write poetry :-)

  3. Wonderful poem, and wonderful illustration!

  4. Really beautiful poem. Not sure how I missed this post?
    I am glad I came over to tag you with the 'Reading is sexy' award. Come on over.

  5. Loved this every time I read it. The line that really hit me (other than "sending tidal waves up her mother's spine"--oh my god!)was the image of the beetle stopping in the sudden shade (not to mention the alliteration in that amazing sentence). Okay, I'll stop gushing... I've just read a biography of Einstein. The latter part of his life he wrestled with the problem of reconciling the bizarre qualities of quantum physics with what his instincts told him about the nature of reality. Like this poem, he believed reality had an existance beyond the observer. Quantum mechanics says everything is a possibility until an observer observes, and then possibility instantaneously chrystalizes into reality. Recently scientist have actually looked into how this works in plants synthesizing light into food. Oh dear, I wonder what my point was...? Umm, I think Einstein would have really liked this poem. --Teresa


Your thoughts?