Cold Little Creatures
by Cynthia Gallaher

you know it’s below zero when
snow’s crunch sounds like a leather saddle
stretching as you mount, now astride with every step,
breaking into the run of a pinto pony,

your lungs strain bare-air breath first warmed by fire,
fascination with freeze becomes more battle of layers
than will, your meditation on blinding snow
takes on smoked-glass serenity.

but all winter long
goldfinches, titmice, chickadees
shiver at peak revolutions per minute,
woodpeckers splinter dead wood

like ice picks,
probe for dozing larvae, while shrews
and furry owlet moths race past hikers like yourself
as pieces of bark blown in a snowstorm.

surrounded in deep caches of seeds,
pocket mouse, ground squirrel,
chipmunk, marmot, brown bat hibernate,
doing something while seeming to do nothing,

in places you can’t see, cockroach freezes,
box turtle and wood frog turn nearly solid,
every cell bathed in sugary wet flood,
precious antifreeze, the refusal of ice

to crystalise in this most frigid blood
warmed only by March.