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A Winter Cardinal

Wind rattles leaves on beech trees,
bark the color of the frozen sky.

A cardinal on a withered branch,
brilliant as the summer sun.

Garden in Winter

Frost on the okra stalks,
uprooted and cast aside to decompose.
Tomato vines cut and buried in the compost pile
with the peppers and the eggplant.
The apple and peach trees are bare,
except for a few leaves
and withered pits that refuse to fall.
The marigolds have lost their color,
and are now brown and brittle.
Only the turnips remain—
greens catch the waning sun,
roots continue to grow underground.

Everything moves toward winter—
Spring:  blossoms burst in brilliant color,
then fall to the ground.
Summer:  fruit ripens; then is picked and eaten.
Autumn:  leaves change color and fall;
plants go dormant, or wither and die.
Only winter is immune from loss,
because there is nothing left to lose.
Only the most rooted and strong remain.

It is this way with love.
Winter settles in,
and we are either marigolds
or turnips.

Michael Ratcliffe is a geographer and poet, living and writing between Baltimore and Washington. His poetry has appeared in a variety of print and on-line journals, most recently Fredericksburg Literary and Art Journal, TEXTure, and Fourth & Sycamore. When he is not writing, he can often be found bicycling throughout central Maryland, even in winter. He can also be found on-line at michaelratcliffespoetry.wordpress.com.


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