The last string of summer thunderstorms
arced through the high-hill forests tonight
and their winds, left behind, howl in
chaotic exhales of exhaustion sweeping
clouds in a hurried pace from west to east.
The orchard’s forgotten apples dance
heavily upon their limbs as they ripen
too far, until their sweetness mulls
naturally into a musk that tickles
every olfactory fiber with a sense
of unexplained nostalgia.
Tonight, the aching trees hum
a consoling lullaby as the steam
from a cup of cinnamon tea
rises like a plume of incense softly
fogging glasses, and for
a moment, the rain-wet breath
from an open window reinvigorates
our remains, reminds us we’ve
not ripened too far past our prime.
Children soon forget
the promises they make trees
as they grow depressed
after every metal dose
of manufactured adulthood.
The leaves remember,
still grieve our hushed addiction,
always keep record
of the way we braze ourselves
into productive machines.
Somewhere far away,
roots heave themselves toward grass
in a fit of grief
because they want to free us
from our self-inflicted wounds.
When the moon rises,
they move toward the woodland dell
speak in slow mumbles
to solve this deliberate hell
before the world crumbles.
I’ve lived here far too long,
sliding these bare feet carefully
across the line [in a void that spins invisibly]
My arms are numb, no longer heavy
in this balance, sometimes I pretend
they’re bird wings [I forget I’m still alive]
I no longer dwell on how deep
the chasm is beneath, nor do I
wonder when this tightrope ends [somewhere ahead]
I’ve held my breath too long
because a monster stirs below
waiting for me to fall [it’d be easy to let go but]
no, I feel the warmth
of a distant flicker; press on ahead
to keep this monster unfed [I have to keep this pace]
Aubade at Moonset
I bend with each goldenrod stalk
as the weight of dew breaks us
with each final breath this night draws.
Gravel cracks beneath my soles,
as I venture down an overgrown
path left by a storm I still see
through 6-year-old eyes.
A distant glow still fills the western sky
as both the moon and I tire
of this predestined spin, as we
outgrow these crafted orbits.
Sometimes, it feels good to get lost,
to let go of the horizons we cling to
because no shadow shields us
from the way the morning will burn.
I told my locker mate, “Take my extra space.”
Coatless hooks and bookless shelves told stories
I was too afraid to tell.
Heavy book-bag abrasions were battle-scars;
I carried everything I owned through hallways and
I knew I took up too much space.
Every morning at 7:30, I was Frodo Baggins—
dodging arrows, tiptoeing through forests of upperclassmen.
I usually found hidden routes around the football players,
but no Dwarf-made mithril shirts protected me
when they’d say, “You’re so gay”—
it’d sting like a sharpened blade.
I mined what confidence I had and gave it to teachers—
they’d let me stay, hide in classroom caves or lab glades.
Trolls paced on marble roads, glared in at me.
This hobbit never made it to Mordor, never saved the day
because there was too much “gay,” never enough brave.
Donny Winter is a LGBTQ+ poet, educator, and activist from Saginaw,
Michigan. He currently teaches Creative Writing at Delta College and his first
full-length collection of poems, Carbon Footprint, was recently released
by Alien Buddha Press (2020). Winter is a Pushcart Prize Nominee and has poems
in Sonder Midwest, Awakened Voices, and CultureCult.
Donny Winter is a LGBTQ+ poet, educator, and activist from Saginaw, Michigan. He currently teaches Creative Writing at Delta College and his first full-length collection of poems, Carbon Footprint, was recently released by Alien Buddha Press (2020). Winter is a Pushcart Prize Nominee and has poems in Sonder Midwest, Awakened Voices, and CultureCult.