Over flannel pyjamas, she yanks pants,
then the nylon waterproof pair, two sweaters
and the down vest. Plastic bags wrapped
around her socks, slipped into boots.
Tugs on her wool cap, ties the hooded jacket
beneath her chin. Muffler wound
across her nose and mouth, she stumbles out
into the changed world,
into the crystal vault, flakes that bite.
Veiled in grey, the sun is a moon
and the trees are sheeted ghosts.
She slips and clambers over drifts.
To the crunch and squeal of each footfall, she adds
her voice, Sakura, Sakura, her breath buoyant, soft
as cherry blossoms caught
in the wind, they flutter in her chest.
No trucks grind their gears. No yellow school buses,
not a single tire track mars the pillowy surface of the road.
Houses hunch under their bluish, white loads,
paths un-shovelled, doors closed.
She wears the weight of her layers like a mantle.
Left behind are the domestic squalls before the fire,
her mother’s pinched lips, the puzzle pieces chewed by the dog,
her younger siblings clamouring to come along.
Her footprints fill and disappear
as she will, one day, swallowed up in white.
Though she shivers, this is not fear,
but a secret comfort that melts in her veins like sleep.
Taste of wool on her tongue, she daubs
at the drip of her nose, wriggling her iced toes,
her swaddled fingers stiff.
Lumbering on, she’s a ten- year- old
ten blocks to the corner shop
for essential provisions: cocoa, popcorn, milk.
Laura Jan Shore teaches poetry in northern NSW, Australia. Her poetry collections include Breathworks (Dangerously Poetic Press, 2002), Water over Stone (Interactive Press, 2011), Afterglow (Interactive Press, 2020). Her work has been published in anthologies and literary journals on four continents. She received her MFA in Poetry from Pacific University. http://www.laurajanshore.com