PoetryWinter 2023

Chronoscope 136: Whalebelly Night — John Walser

Slow smooth snow outside this window
sculpts ridges:
animal tracks, footprints, blade marks flaked away:

we through the afternoon slept, woke
to a steam bedroom grotto unlighted:

a whalebelly night:
the sky without a moon
or Northern Lights
or cars that beam up the trunks of trees
and fountain into a weak wash.

In December: under what barebranch shadow shift
can we feel unburdening?

The lakes are frozen shore to shore:
thick as palettes:

and always the temperature
can’t be believed: feels like worse.

In the pine tree thrash
we want something not fatal
but the wind sounds like a nest of cold
a stuck throttle
that slaps at windowframes:
finds gaps and draughts
in our movements, in our breathing
in even our unexposed skin.

I would rather not think of
the next three months:
the season’s pasture just
too far to tread:
how mountains and refinery klieg lights
seem closer
than the actual horizon they show on.

I want to leave the lights off
to feel the walls, feel for furniture
to move slowly through the headways of things
that don’t exist except to the touch, to the bump:
to find you, to join you
within a warmth of still sleeping tangle.


John Walser’s poems have appeared in numerous journals, including Spillway, Water-Stone Review, Plume, Posit and december magazine.  His manuscript Edgewood Orchard Galleries has been a finalist for the Autumn House Press Prize, the Ballard Spahr Prize and the Zone 3 Press Prize as well as a semifinalist for the Philip Levine Prize and the Crab Orchard Series First Book Award.  A four-time semifinalist for the Pablo Neruda Prize, as well as a Pushcart and a Best of the Net nominee, John is a professor of English at Marian University and lives in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, with his wife, Julie.

The author: Debra Marquart