Apr/May 2001 Poetry Special Feature

Winter Carnival

by Jennifer Finstrom


Winter Carnival

Tents, all gray, wait at the end
of a street, on the bank of a frozen river.
We stand in line and purchase
tickets, step through piles of snow
to stare at the shivering giraffe,
the pair of ancient elephants, unhappy
in their wisdom.  There is a woman
carved of ice.  She will melt with the sun,
but feels nothing as we gaze at her.
Her eyes move, clear as a window,
and show me where a lonely shape
is pacing behind bars.  The lean wolf
waits under a low tent, and I don't
need to touch him to feel again
the ragged fur, the hot breath.
You never knew how I met him
in the wood one day, carried his animal
scent home in my hair, my basket,
the folds of my red cloak.  Now I clutch
my stomach with one hand, grip
the bars of his cage with another.
I am pregnant with longing and
must soon give birth.  Behind this tent
I am on my knees, my back, tearing
my clothes, but the straw is so cold,
the sun so absent, and this thing that crawls
out of me sharpens its teeth on my thigh,
rasps a pattern of red.  It is born hungry.
The cord connecting us is velvet,
braided rope, softer than hair.
I am fighting to cut myself free,
to end forever what binds us,
but the ice woman's sharp heart
melts so quickly in my hand.


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