Poems by Dawn McGuire

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Winter Sugar

by Dawn McGuire

From Canary Winter 2012-13

Dawn lives by a tiny riparian habitat in the Orinda Woods in Northern Calfiornia. She shares the land with a splendid gray fox who hunts there. Orinda was named in honor of Katherine Philips, the first woman in England to be acclaimed as a poet in her own lifetime: "the Matchless Orinda" (1632-1664).

for Monica Tranströmer

In November, the Northern Spring
Peeper (P. crucifer) turns to ice.
The kidneys in their tiny tunics
freeze; the liver in its capsule,
spleen in its sac, refrigerate.
The brain is a milligram of iceberg
in a helmet.

With the ears’ oval windows
frosted over, nothing sings,
but sleeps, hard as granite candy,
under litter leaf.
           This far north of song,
the silence could be endless.
Ocean’s last lid.

But in the depths, where life
keeps its best silver, the cells
are filled with fluent waters.
A few extra molecules of sugar
become winter antifreeze. No ice
spikes form, no inner membranes
break, no essentials leak.

When the sun’s elliptic fire
crosses north again, the mute brown
shuck begins to thaw. The curious
X on its back for which it is named
           no one explains,
but the heart’s three chambers start
to beat, and the brain’s dopamine

as always, promises a kiss.
           So it begins,
the boreal chorus. Sweet-kept
and built loud; built to deafen
even death.

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