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by Cynthia R. Pratt

         "...Only the wind has never forsaken us.
         It comes bearing its knife, true till death."
            William Stafford, 3/1/83 from
            Every War has Two Losers

I'm calling my daughter in Cairo to tell her about the snow.
Milkshake slush covers the driveway.
No wind outside, only the hushed flutter of juncos
and chickadees at the feeder.

Earlier, ice coated the stems of that exotic from Chile,
the butterfly bush. An ice sheet still sheens the bird bath.
A varied thrush picks at the bowl's edges,
dipping its hooked beak into the thaw.

This winter is unexpected, not the deluge of rain
dampening all that covers us. Finally, I ask,
almost as an after-thought, "How are you,
living in this desert of people?"

She answers, more surprising than our weather,
"Cold", her voice an echo through the phone line
because the distance distorts.
The family needs more sweaters and, of course,

the wind is a reckoning she never counted on.
In Egypt, the sand, like history, never still,
blows sharp as ice crystals,
always her persistent neighbor.

After the call I watch Spirit send back pictures of Mars,
its red soul contrasting against stark,
smooth boulders, the silence misleading.
The speaker tells the world he thinks the Martian wind
has stripped the edges off the rocks.

I fill our fireplace with wood, opening the damper.
Air flows under kindling, rousing embers.
How dependent the universe is on what can't be seen.


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