We sat in the cramped kitchen huddled around the stove the open oven door spreading a faint warmth that barely slid through the winter chill. The bare bulb in the ceiling strained and flickered fighting to hold as the generators were shut down, and darkness enveloped our small world. The sky was lit by the flares and the odor of exploding shells seeped through the towel sealed windows covered in the tattered bedsheets too thin to afford warmth. Ibrahim had been gone two weeks sneaking out of the city to join his brothers in Gorazde or Tuzla, or wherever it was that they were struggling to save what little was left. We huddled under the small table and dreamed of the taste of fresh bread, or even pork. In the morning he would run among the craters in the streets in search of the convoy and the handouts, which we would raven as the sun set over our war torn hell.
First published in Legal Studies Forum, Vol. XXX, No. 1 & 2, 2006
In the early morning, before I open the blinds, before the sun approaches rising, I imagine the chill enveloping everything outside, October slipping quickly toward November, to the possibility of rolling snake eyes, to snow.
Winter always came that way, unannounced, and at least by me, unwelcomed, the last of the crimson, flame orange and ochre leaves dragged to the earth and buried ignominiously.
But I know when I do open the blinds, even while the sun is still in its celestial witness protection, I will see the shadow of the palm trees and know that here we measure winter on a wholly different scale.
Technology has effectively destroyed the intimate dinner parties that once were the core of a social life.
You fretted over whether the souffle would collapse, if the wine was chilled to the right temperature, if the entree was back timed sufficiently to allow time for the hors d’oeuvres and if the guests would arrive at the scheduled time.
Now it is a fear that Grubhub or Doordash will be late, that you must remember to hide the packaging from the heat and serve appetizers and if it will be nice enough to eat outside, or if you will need to check vaccination cards.
A millennium ago the army of the lord dressed in mail and rode proud steeds across barren lands, swords flashing in a red roasting sun washed in the blood of the infidels. They stopped for prayer blessing the bodies left along the dirt track left by their hooves, a common grave for common faces differing only in the color of skin and hair.
In this millennium the army of the lord slouches outside the mall rubbing hands against the chill, the bell bleating against the night, a barren moon reflects off the red kettle. As they locked the doors he pulled the flask from his hip pocket and thought of the bodies passing by, swerving to avoid him, and the forty dollars he would get would warm his frozen skin.
First Appeared in Lullwater Review, Vol. 9, No. 1, 1998. Reprinted in Legal Studies Forum, Vol. 29, No. 1, 2005.
If I receive warm under robes to ease my winter meditation I will refuse them. If you ask me why, I will say I was born with such robes as I need. If you ask what I wore before birth I shall remain silent.
In the deepest winter there is no chill that can reach the empty mind for it is full of a warmth that cannot be replaced and one needs no shelter, for ashes know no temperature.
The temperature falls, slowly at first but gaining speed, as though in the grip of winter’s gravity. Winter has the potential to be a black hole season into which we enter and imagine we will never reemerge into spring. The wind whispers stories to us of a time when this was all ice when no one complained of a chill for there was no one. We turn up our collars to remind the wind that we will remain here, for nature has given us an equal dose of stubbornness.