Winter Walk at the Lake - Joyce Compton Brown

The prime color was gray with orange-clay
waters and sodden leaves, umber at our feet,
a winter day hiding all hope of green,
as if the rapture had occurred, none of us
had been deemed worthy, and we were left
here in life’s aftermath.

We’d walked in shirtsleeves yesterday,
though God seemed to be rumbling
in his sleep, maybe even blasting a curse
or two, or so it seemed. Trees fell,
their bare roots showing how fragile
their magnificent hold upon this earth.

Now, in the chill, the pines and oaks,
those spared yesterday’s gleaning,
were holding their breath, awaiting
the next Decision. Not even the squirrels
were out dashing through running cedar,
up the short-leaf pines, as they usually did.

The birds were tiny, fidgety among the alder
twigs ‒ you’d think a leaf would move
among the silhouettes ‒ a sparrow,
a gray-green cardinal. The sky gave up a flake
or two with no promise of more. Our feet
shifting in the depth of brown foliage,

we walked around high waters, at last
climbing steps designed for ease and order,
till we came to the new mown grass,
the skinny planted trees, the concrete
and brick ‒ familiar markings of humankind.
Still, in this month of God’s seeming moodiness

and man’s desperation, there was a chorus
in the land of in between ‒ juncos new-black
and white, finches daring rose-pink among brown
and white stripes, even a displaced house wren,
the annual gathering of bluebirds,
the swapping of love songs for spring singing.

Joyce Compton Brown grew up in western North Carolina in a community of primarily German and Scots-Irish farm families at a time when the agrarian way of life was fading. The Carolina rural landscape and its small churches served as bedrocks of order and tradition.

After graduating from Appalachian State University, she earned her doctorate and began teaching, continuing her interest in social history, Appalachian lore, and roots music, Upon retirement, she expanded her focus on poetry, finding her subjects in the foothills and the deep and shifting landscape of the upcountry American South.

She has published poetry in numerous journals and has won or placed in contests and relies on the encouragement of her artist-writer husband along with the comfort of their sweet cat. She is the author of three chapbooks: Bequest (Finishing Line), Singing with Jarred Edges (Main St. Rag), and Standing on the Outcrop (Red Hawk Press).