Walking in Winter: Du Lac


Author: Sonia Gernes

First, from the stadium roof,
a spigotful of blackbirds
spurts out across the autumn sky,
their blackness circling, circling,
like puzzle pieces seeking to connect,
to fit wing into tab, tab into tail or beak,
to form the solid black felt
of the coming winter night.

In darkness and wind,
the path from the bookstore
is another landscape — a prairie ravine
with a single clump of trees. The dorms
in the distance are a village of light.
I pull my coat closer, watch
another lone walker bend into the night.
I want to tell her we are walking
a liminal route. Even the wind
has a shadow here.

After the great blizzard of ’78,
when streetlights made a winding sheet
of whiteness above and whiteness below,
we climbed down, down
to enter the doors of O’Shaughnessy,
the path four feet above us, the quad
a high plateau. Marooned five days,
we saw everything anew. The TV
spoke of hardship, but we reveled
in another truth: we had never walked
so far above the earth.

Someone has been walking
on the surface of the lake.
Someone has dared (or should
I say “believed”?) that ice will hold.
In early light, the trail of boot-prints
becomes a text, a pattern of dots
and shuffling dashes, a witness
of sorts, as I carry my doubts
round the trail near the power plant,
as I come to the place
where water glows like a trinity:
the liquid pool, greenish in the light,
the steam, rising like a languid ghost,
the solid, solid ice.

Sonia Gernes is professor emerita of English at Notre Dame. Her recent collection of poems is What You Hear in the Dark.

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