In old age life’s become a winter landscape.
The traveler has come so far, through snow
Above his shins, through drifts between his knees.
Like hammered rocks, his bones crack when he slams
The crutches down, then like a pendulum
Swings the weight of an antique clock across
The miles and miles of frozen swells and flats.
This unmapped land’s as uncompliant as
The god he’d begged to save his pregnant wife.
But that’s all past. In Friedrich’s winter scene
The snow has nearly stopped; he rests against
A rock by intermeshing firs, which guard
Him from the mortal storm. But note he’s holding
Up his blistered palm as if it oozed
Like Christ’s. It’s clear he soon will die, but not
Forsaken: Friedrich’s put a crucifix
Amid the trees—as if within the mind
Of this old man—and makes this place
A sacred spot, like the steeples rising out
Of sight, in mist unveiling what has always
Been there, that’s everywhere he goes.
Matthew Brennan has published five books of poems and Snow in New York: New and Selected Poems is forthcoming from Lamar University Literary Press. Formerly a professor at Indiana State University in Terre Haute, he has retired to Columbus, Ohio.
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