In January I wake up and see
ten thousand birds glittering black against the ugly cauliflower sky.
I used to dream about tying ropes around their bodies
and being carried away—to Florida, Mexico,
and all the other warm places I’d read about in books.
When you’re born in winter like I am, you learn
how to force spring flowers to grow from your nail beds.
You learn to wave them at people like an apology.
You are a homeless wind trying to touch everything
and anything you can get your city-blue fingers on, but
nobody loves the cold.
On mornings like these
I want to pull the sun from the sky and wear it
around my neck like an amulet to keep myself warm, but
at nighttime I am still only a vague star, clutching no constellation,
disappearing cleanly in the haze of city life.
There are days when my mouth is never wet.
On days like this every cup of yellow tea tastes
like the cough drops my father used to give me when I got sick,
and every ice-covered sidewalk gives me nightmares
from when I saw my sister sprawled, purple and bleeding,
screaming about a broken wrist. Janus is the Roman God of the doorway,
and like him I have never
been able to cross a threshold without checking over my shoulder
every step. On Sundays I walk empty cobblestone streets,
listen to men of God give sermons in Dutch,
and feel the bells quiver like rattle snakes
stretched through my bones.
The truth is: recovery is an ever-evolving process.
Last night I clipped each daisy from my cuticles and pinned them
upside down on the wall by the end of their tender stems:
I am done growing flowers for other people.
My shoulders may never be the kind of hard-packed earth
from which daffodils sprout like beginnings,
but I know my arms are hard-wood
tree branch limbs,
still standing when all the leaves are gone,
where the birds sit
when they need to rest on their long migration south.
I am not a bitter northern wind—
I am a fire glowing in a little brick house, I am homemade
kitchen soup on someone’s spoon, I am my mother’s favorite mug
she always uses for hot chocolate in the evenings,
and I was born on the one day in January that is still