The young man sings
of love and winter
with the snow of his voice
and his passionate breath.

When it was summer
she gave flowers and welcome
but now it is winter
his sweetheart’s door is closed.

His tears are frozen.
Dense flocks of starlings
thicken and darken
against the gray clouds

and a wisp of blown smoke
is frailer than snowflakes.
Her summer footprints
soft on the warm grass

are flattened and buried
in the death of paths.
The bright ways of love
are lost in snowdrifts.

Now he must leave
the roofs of his happiness.
Only his shadow
moves on the white snow.


He has left behind him
the fountains of romance
and love’s clean initials
cut in the lime tree.

Winter has stifled
the lilt of the river
and the wind skates over
a surface of ice.

Stray dogs snarl at him
surly towns reject him
fresh snow has whitened
the hair on his head.

He is trudging the roads
of love’s dissolution
he dreams in the pain of sleep
of love’s despair.

The world is a harsh stone
but it is not as heavy
and cannot be colder
than the ice in his heart.


He is no more now
than the last shriveled leaf
that cynical winter
has left on the tree.

In the red glow of morning
he walks on the hills
lifting his voice
with the voice of the storm.

Nobody takes him
into a festive house
and hands him a bowl
of steaming welcome.

But he raises his head
with the stride of youth
and carries his loneliness
with a potent swagger.

What if he lives
in winter darkness
in the frost of stars
and the warmth of his blood?

He travels with vagabonds
gamblers wanderers
and young men without love
solitary, lost and free.

—Leslie Norris

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This article originally appeared in The New Criterion, Volume 19 Number 6, on page 33
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