L. Annette Binder


Glittering desolation blue and white and black trees
stripped for the season and you quiver like a needle
under the compass glass cracked
from when you dropped it. You will follow it north
where the air stings your throat and opens
inside you like a flower and all its petals are
sharpened blades. Where nothing lives and nothing
dies, and she’s buried, you know this, she’s been buried
since the summer and she’s cold now — don’t let her be cold —
and the ground is frozen but you want to walk
where it’s colder still and the roads
won’t heave in March. No mud and no buds
on the trees, no bulbs breaking through
(she loved the tulips and the maybells
and the tiger lilies) and you wish them all away,
those vulgar blossoms, let them freeze
on their stalks because only the cold will bring her
back. Walk north and she won’t be dead, no, she’ll be
sleeping like Ötzi, 5,000 years old and resting
in his glacier, and they found him with his copper
axe and all his tattoos needled into frozen skin.
Heaven is cold, Sister Mary Bee told you
reaching for her paddle, it’s cold
and all the angels have eyes
as wide and blank as the sky so
you’ll follow the needle where it leads
away from her and the grocery store flowers
you brought her and she smiled and
squeezed your hand, you’re cold, she said,
how’d you get so cold, and she cupped your hands
and warmed them.

L. Annette Binder’s poetry has appeared in Town Creek Poetry and her fiction in the Pushcart and PEN/O. Henry Prize anthologies. Her story collection Rise (Sarabande 2012) received the Mary McCarthy Prize in Short Fiction, and her debut novel The Vanishing Sky (Bloomsbury) was published in 2020. She lives in New Hampshire with her family.