With a poem, Marianne Boruch, professor emerita at Purdue University, urges us to embrace the dark realities of winter, despite any trepidation, so that we might see our surroundings in a different light.
GIVE WINTER DARK ITS DUE, PLEASE
I'd go back and pick up my dream again.
But I can't. Perhaps it spoke to
the sea’s darkness down deep, its many-colored fish
though we are inland, aren’t we? As inland here
as instinct, the way in us how
darkness in winter welcomes all things equally
however tentative our step by step through the dim
narrow hall to a closed door three yards away.
A thin rim of light around that door
because someone on the other side is reading this late.
Winter’s first definition must be dark,
more hours of dark in that part of the day called night.
All late afternoon too as birds dusk-gather
in the vast center darkness of the old juniper out front
as if discussing from the beginning of time
the cold hours behind them
and hours of it ahead. Their flickerly gaggle-noise
really not to complain, just saying—
what exactly? But we humans can’t translate
from the wild anything important. We do hear how
they rabble-rouse and do not hesitate,
how they keep interrupting each other, layer on layer
pitch-perfect to make our small eavesdropping
epic on the porch, our
out there in winter coats and scarves and masks,
the only place we can safely offer
a beer to friends who talk through the recent
grim particulars of our national nightmare. And Covid
lying in wait in the middle of any dark now.
But give dark its due, please. Because in winter—
stripped of fall’s movement and color—
There’s not much to notice so you pick up on things
oddly. Winter’s light of the moon framed
by dark’s beautiful
nothing at all in your room at 2 a.m.
when you wake from the dream that insisted some
crucial thing though you—yes, you!—like me
would not listen and will never remember.
Except you see sweet things as your eyes widen and adjust
into half-knowing: slowly the low shine
of certain books you love left on the bedside table,
a three-quarter cup of water there.
Outside the eternal winter dark goes on, inside
the eternal winter dark goes on
to allow and deepen the moon’s own darkness of
craters and mountains that for centuries
We’ve read as a face, a looking down, a calm,
Marianne Boruch’s ten books of poetry include The Anti-Grief (Copper Canyon, 2019). Her books of prose include three essay collections, most recently The Little Death of Self (Michigan, 2017), and a memoir, The Glimpse Traveler (Indiana, 2011). Among her honors are a Kingsley-Tufts Poetry Award, the Eugene and Marilyn Glick Indiana Authors Award (national division) and fellowships/residencies from the Guggenheim Foundation, the NEA, the Rockefeller Foundation’s Bellagio Center and two national parks (Denali and Isle Royale). Her work has appeared in The New Yorker, The Nation, Field, American Poetry Review, POETRY, The New England Review, the New York Review of Books and elsewhere. On a 2019 Fulbright in Australia, she observed the continent’s astonishing wildlife to write a neo-ancient/medieval bestiary of poems, forthcoming from Copper Canyon Press this October. Going rogue and emeritus in 2018 from Purdue University, Boruch continues to teach in the Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College.
Amid this fast-paced, overwhelming year, we invite you to slow down, settle in and embrace the season with the help of our Winter Slow Moments Campaign. Along with commissioning a new Slow Moments film featuring Cataract Falls, we’ve invited several Indiana writers to explore themes of winter—such as stillness, dormancy, darkness and brightness—through original prose and poetry. From a commentary on the wintering practices of Indiana wildlife, to an exploration of the season’s simultaneous status as dark and bright, to a meditation on the varied spiritual traditions that embrace stillness, these original works urge us to forge connections between nature, literature and our own human practices.