Eight hundred years of learning came unbound:
north of December, lit by a sliver of sun,
the whitened roofs of Cambridge stood,
tented in rows—blank page, blank page.
Snow lay dust sheets over the cars:
a street of mastodons waiting to thaw.
My shoes tried to slip from under me
and race the ice crystals that skated the gutter.
Watch your feet, dreamer! Don't step
on that slice of cucumber, lacy with frost.
Don't listen to that sooty smudge of bird
chipping away at the flinty air—
no song would escape for a month or more,
though petals shivered on a Japanese cherry
guarding the door of the Conservative Club.
From an English book of hours,
here was the lost plate for December:
in the plumber's window, the latest fashion
in radiators stood, a flurry of mothballs
at its feet—were they snow or hail?
The one green thing, a plastic pine tree,
bristled at being hung with copper elbows
and brassy nipples. O Christmas Eve!
The bookbinder didn't want to rebind a thing,
or even creak a hand-cranked guillotine to life.
But he would trim a ream down to a size
no longer manufactured, were that all I wanted.
A groan emerged from the Iron Age, unrusted.
Unfed for aeons, the great maw yawned,
then drank a single drop of oil,
under the frozen gaze of pin-ups
too scantily clad for that cold cavern,
their airbrushed acres of bared skin
yellowed and brittle as parchment.