Burying Winter by Beatrix Gates

                                 for Nora Paley


The sound rang out
          as if the life itself (and everyone touched)
                    became the sound
a bowl   rung loud   rung round, oh!
Grace herself ringing loud as the fierce life-loving sun.

A bowl, ready and clean
the song of empty
          sound rang out

A fire in the everyday belly of the sun
cried out a name

We heard it—and another, not yet known
the name of death as our own.

We could reach
outside of wild imagining
because of you

Living on


Nora heard it
     above the ground   growing wide along the earth
          traces of fireburst in red salvia

moving through the full crown of leaves, sky’s longer dark,
        frozen ground, dry cold and numbered shards of ice
               sound folding into lakebed bottom spring   summer
days of sun and nourishing mud

Nora went rigid in the sun
all fluid tick-ticking
inside the marrow of her bones—
a chord played in her blood,
all given in preparation and given over on the day

whatever fiber
was left
unsounded, filled with sound

Pulled, kept moving
by forces outside
by her own   children swimming
     in their grief     lonely bones up the hill   where Grace lived

Grief will not leave   urgent whispers greening
     The sound will not leave

          her throat, a pitcher dry as bone
          pouring pain   no chord could play
the soundless song

The winter offered quiet at least
early dark   a burying winter
          so the sound could sleep
               in the bare sky
                   be a naked branch
or cupping cold
Perhaps the sound will stay
A cloth can wipe the table
     four chairs   Pull up another
and winter can be buried without Grace

Beatrix Gates’ collections include In the Open and Ten Minutes. She shared a Witter Bynner Translation Award with Electa Arenal for The Poems of Vikram Babu by Jesús Aguado (HOST). As librettist, Gates received support with composer Anna Dembska from the NEA for “The Singing Bridge” which premiered in 2005.