In this twelve below zero—colder
when the radio mentions wind chill—
the frost smoke opens a scene for my autobiography.
Ice crystals fleck against the theater’s curved screen.
Sounds swirl, surround
a thousand hidden projectors
turning at their erratic pace.
Take-up reels turn rhythmically
out of sync. Birch bark unwinds
on the ground in slow motion,
which forces the chickadees to puff up
into an unbelievably cold world.
These small birds wait patiently with me
in the crotch of a common birch.
And together, we memorize
more patterns than we can hold.
It is cold. Snow burns against my forehead,
and I am a dinosaur
no larger than a hawk
suddenly choosing scarlet feathers for my first flight.
Six quick steps
and winds gather underneath.
Consciousness blurs to make sense
of the black accents decorating each wing.
The rush quickens, the scene shifts.
Frost smoke continues its slow rise into the cold.
I dream of a bright tanager flying towards me
and the tasty green caterpillars
waiting patiently under the ice.
I strike a match.
Hot tendrils grow on a crust of snowy wood.
Shoots rise, blur, and break
their branches into fire feathers.
Blues shift, and the bright flames turn toward yellows
green enough to propagate a change of season.
A new spring warm enough
to smolder visions
and force the drifting snow to rise like clouds.
I count my red feathers
and take six quick steps
into the swirling currents.