The coldest night is heavy as time compressed,
the recent dead beloved, the friends facing
brain tumors or kidney stones, government cuts
in vital funding, or finding their ways back to each other
30 years later with the same old warmth.
The coldest night doesn’t sing or call loudly.
It sits upright in its bedroom chair in its pajamas,
and dreams of hot Japanese tea, redbud blossom,
impossible tenderness of a pale breeze, a day so light it twirls
unabashedly like cotton from the cottonwood past rain
and a pink sun. The coldest night yawns, reads the I Ching
and cries at the lines, “Do you want to improve the world?/
I don’t think it can be done.” It curls into a cat asleep while
stars freeze into their fire millions of years away, the men
of the house sleep in rhythmic sweetness in all the rooms,
and ice crystals spread across the window’s interiors.
When the coldest night rises up and turns to see who’s here,
it nods in recognition, reminding us that this is what
life does before it opens its heart anew: it ends.