Snow White

I dreamt I woke in winter—
even the river
silent, its tongue caught mid-
sentence, like mine
when someone looks at me
too closely. It had been years

since I understood winter
so well I knew it to be inside
my own bone-cage, since I had
smelled that kind of white.

White of the frozen rabbit
my spaniel dragged in from the back
yard, white of horse-breath in the barn,
white of birds so desperate
for seed they pretend colorlessness—

except the cardinal, drop of heat,
too neat to be blood, too brave
to be symbol. I woke in winter

and almost-knew what I had always
almost-known, back in those dark
five o’clock walks home for dinner:

something about loneliness living
in the well of the throat, something
about fur and burrowing
and black eyes
waiting for the thaw.

Copyright © 2017 Katherine Riegel. “Snow White” originally appeared in Orion. Used with permission of the author.