New Year’s Eve 2019

The tin whistle man

plays auld lang syne

in front of the half-built building

unfinished from year to year.


A curve of moon rises

amid the cold downtown glare

as I wait for the bus

and things to change.


Copyright Kay Winter

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An excerpt from novel in progress (2)

I did not go often to the tiered rooms in the tower, high and isolated from the other rooms in the castle. Reached by wide and empty passages, and winding stairs circling up. An eagle’s eyrie once I finally reached the rooms. But to be welcomed there by Tira. To drink tea scented with rose petals as I felt the clouds and icy fog roll past the curved windows. To eat fine white bread with last of the summer honey. To discover with each scrap of paper she handed me another piece in the secret puzzle. To uncover a new pattern in the faded and frayed silk upholstery on the old chairs, draped with tattered scarves and cushioned with limp brocaded pillows, bare in places.

To do all this was the visit the past of the country itself. To find in the gray winter afternoon the perfumed air of long-ago summers in long-ago gardens, edged with pomegranate trees and cooled by low murmuring fountains. All that magnificence now wrapped in old silks, bare rugs, honey, rose-scented tea, and the fire in the wide brass brazier.

I could forget the cold air blowing about the tower, the city freezing and falling further into decay. And I could forget the man I had left alone in our rooms, watching the snow fall, from the space where you used to be.

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An excerpt from a novel in progress

I need to block the spell this place has put us under. You have lost yourself here. I have lost myself here. And I have lost you. I have begun to wander now, too. I tell myself that it is to look for winter rooms for us, but I found those on the second day of looking. We are near enough to the mountain that the winter will reach us. The market has begun selling black felt hats with wide brims and flaps that fall down the neck.

We will move as soon as we want to. Things are lackadaisical here. Lost. We have been lost even the reason for our coming here.

A goddess is coming. Coming down upon us in this lost city. She will come as snow and ice. An angry goddess hurtling in white robes down from the mountain.

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Type go stop silent

Type go stop silent

Here thrusting carp room

Office ugliness anything inside scarred

Room clutching you mystery remorseless

Country everything again

Awakened sister showed.


Type go.

But stop silently here,

in the thrusting carp room.

The office is ugliness.

Anything inside is scarred.

The room is clutching you.

Mystery is remorseless.

But in the country,

everything is awakened, sister.

It showed.


Copyright Kay Winter


For this poem, I was inspired by John Cage’s random diaries, in which he used the I Ching to generate the parameters of each entry. I tried a cut-rate version with some domino tiles that I laid out at random. I then grabbed a book off the shelf (Proust’s Remembrance of Things Past) and picked words based on the numbers on the domino tiles. The first stanza is the words as I picked them, with no editing. The second stanza is a bit of minimal poetry-making to put them together.

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Things That Give a Floating Feeling

(Modeled after the lists of Sei Shonagon’s Pillow Book)


A summer cotton sheet lifted and falling gently over you.

Maple leaves fully red and ready to drift from the bough.

A silk skirt with a snug waistband but a loose hem.

Awaking in a quiet room with clouds gusting past the window.

Canoeing in the early morning with the morning fog still on the creek.

The petals from a wild iris falling into the marshy edge of Lake Nokomis.

The leap of a small white rabbit across a pale rug.

The lights of distant streetlamps appearing in the darkness.

A light spring snow melting on the pale yellow petals of a forsythia bush.

A cup of hot tea spilled and frozen in midair in the First Month.

Walking on a dry cool day in a new pair of sneakers.

An updraft of wind that swirls the falling snow upward.

A memory, just before slumber, of sunbathing on a raft.



Copyright Kay Winter

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Even on the days we think we forget,

We find ourselves standing at the window

Looking at the empty sidewalk

While the coffee gets cold

In the last clean cup.


Even on the days we don’t go out of our way

To avoid the cafe where a lot of it happened

We find ourselves in another café

asking for vinegar for the fries, though we

Were never the one who wanted it.


Even on the nights we walk home late

The air blank and waiting for memory

And our minds falling vacant

The goodness falls back into our soul


In our soul a summer comes, again,

And the morning sun

Shines in a white room.


Copyright Kay Winter



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How did I get here?


Over and over

you awake

and through the open window

you see the small square

aglow autumn light

the black-ribbed tree

at the center

the leaves gently raining down

in crimson and gold.

Each time,

you walk back to memory

and find the place,

you wonder at your arrival

and never recall your leaving.


Copyright Kay Winter


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Blow on a Stone

Once the cold sea wakes you,

Fergus, King Fergus,

Fergus mac Léti,

catch the silver sprite

in a warrior’s fist.

Take as this,

one wish of three.


Blow on a stone, Fergus

for breathing in the sea.


Take heed, Fergus,

King Fergus,

foolhardy Fergus,

Fergus mac Léti,

of the muirdris monster

of Loch Rudraige.

A mouth black

and wide with rage.


Blow on a stone, Fergus,

For breathing in the sea.


Battle the muirdris, Fergus,

fearful Fergus,

Fergus mac Léti,

until Loch Rudraige

runs red with blood

and drowning.


Blow on a stone, Fergus,

For breathing in the sea.


Copyright Kay Winter

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Franny O’Hare

They were small days

with large stones.

Scheduled screams.

Cigarettes on the back steps.

They were long nights of plastic cups

and cold cars.

Things to trip over.

Things said, things unsaid.

Things shoved into dumpsters.

Phones hanging up.



But then,


no two,

bright eyes.


Dedicated to Franny, my first rescued house rabbit, who also rescued me.

Copyright Kay Winter

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Break All the Pretty Tricks

I watch them,

as my laurel boughs,

as they dig the shards up

a thousand years after

I broke them into the ground.


Not all fragile things

are worth protecting.

Like that vase:

the gift of a satyr

bent on his own devices.


Or jade-green wine goblet

I also cursed, broke and buried.

The wine a muddled

and precarious gift, Dionysius.


Now, the shards in sunlight,

I remember everything.

The afternoon sun, cicada hum,

the god, the rushes, the chase.

And I, the innocent one,


a thousand years

a tree, watching over

the edge of the white isle

to the sea.


Break all the pretty tricks

into the earth,

and let the earth give welcome

to the pieces.


Copyright Kay Winter

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