by Maiji/Mary Huang

What a storm.
I'll say. It's unusual for this time of year.

The trees are cold,
the air grows old. The ground crinkles:
each step crackling,
leaves left dry.

The sunset is just as you remember from your childhood.

Warm and low:
drowsily swaying,
sinking into sleep. Deep and rich:
the orange of leaves,
brown of the earth,
red like a fox,
it smells like the past.

You've never slept well.

Every night is the longest night:
a tall body in a small corner, mumbling a prayer
to weather out the darkness.

Every night you wait
Every night you lose.

Your head is heavy.
It is weighed down by beasts.
Behind your mind they laugh at you,
eyes lidless, blank, staring.

And deliberate fox feet
in sturdy black boots,
well-polished, well-lined with doubt,
echo heavily, slow against the stone.
Towards the worn gate:
A sad thing, in much need of repairing,
metal rusted with regret
guilt gnawing at the hinges.

Each step comes closer,
closer to your trembling thought:
fox feet will get there.

Every empty eye watches you:
unblinking, waiting for the moment,
twittering with excitement.
The air grows itchy, dry like the dust
on the stone of the ground.

Breath by breath, beat by beat,
little by little of your quavering heart:

Each step pulls you, takes you back
to that night, that night,
that very sleepless night.

The last storm of winter is coming.

Author's Notes: tanjou is a great mood-setter for this piece. I'm still not quite satisfied with the overall pacing and the transition in the middle of the poem. Just a bit of descriptive work, trying to catch a fear of the inevitable - that "something wicked this way comes" sort of sense. I worked on this periodically, on and off, but I started writing it when I had a sinus infection, can you tell? XD;