Winter picked up the stones off the ground
and held them against my eyes,
my temples, my cheeks.

That was when the sun appeared in the sky, everything about it
distant and complete,
a chunk of time I could flick with my finger.

That was when the girl appeared,
the snow cutting into her long, bare shins,
everything about her stretched hard until it was straight—
gaze, hair, animal understanding.

That was when the sudden movements started,
sticks, jerking, rustling. My lips, though,
were finally cool, as if I had never spoken,
the swelling going down,
my eyes stronger under their crusts.

That was when I disappeared.
I simply could not relinquish the gentleness moving over my face.

Winter took the girl’s hand,
became the girl’s hand.
Her stillness set and cracked, set again
and cracked wider. That was when I became a thin membrane
between what could happen to her and what could not.