On a cold, crackling
I clamp on skis and glide
out across the solid reservoir
before tracking up the pure
moon-pearl slope of snowfield
toward the dark curtain of trees
and stop just short of the woods.
Warmed in the climb, I survey the pale landscape
the few intrepid stars glimmering
through the mixed radiance of snow
and lunar light, unclamp and lay down
to wriggle a warm angel in the snow.
I know this is the last of the rules
I should be breaking on a winter night.
But I am warm, the sky rewarding,
and I do drift off to sleep, perhaps to freeze
but anyway to dream of rooms full of firelight
where people in large furs talk of wolves,
how they sniff and drool in growling circles
before they attack and one woman shows
how it’s done, sidling around the room,
sniffing up to each ear and finally
up to mine, at which I almost wake
and feel in half dream the slight warmth
of wet breath on my cheek
and lie long moments coming to until I know
something is sniffing at my ear.
I jump from my angel yelling. The shout
bounces off the frozen water and trees and I see
three, four or more thin-bellied frames fly
off through swirls of snow
into the shadows of the woods.
Around me, their paw prints
pock and pack the snow.
I shiver and look hard for eyes
in the blackest spaces between trees
before bending to retrieve my skis
and poles and push off
down the hill toward home.
Bio: Bill Burtis has one chapbook, Villains; his poems have appeared in such magazines as Aurorean, Sou’wester, Nine Mile, Seneca Review, The Paris Review and others. He earned an MFA in poetry from the University of Iowa.