Walking in Winter: Du Lac

Author: Sonia Gernes

i. 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.

ii. 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.

iii. 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.

iv. 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.