Tonight, steel mesh of constellations and a die-cut moon. Flames in the northern sky
and sirens — another fire in an old hotel. Every hour on the hour you wake and listen
to the spectral speech of freight trains arcing through the troposphere, the arguments
of snow ploughs and the wind. With a pencil you perform a night translation, a kind
of composition in your sleep. You thought you might transcribe the weather, document
the customs and geography, the architecture of the place, but in this city nothing lasts
for long, the memory not a storehouse but an exhalation, crystallized. The breath
of a boy locked out and forced to wander through the streets on New Year’s Eve, alone.
You don’t know why they’re haunting you, these phantom children and their deadly
accidents. They’ve escaped out of a film you watched in elementary school each year
before the holidays, grim lessons about winter safety. In this morning’s paper,
tales of robbery and arson, stolen cars. A photo of the burnt hotel, its transformation
overnight into a palace made of icicles, an arctic fairy tale about amnesia.
Published online January 01 2013.
The poem “Winter Archive” was commissioned by the Plug In Institute of Contemporary Art as part of a project curated by Steven Matijco in the fall of 2007 and was published in the book Scratching the Surface: The Post-Prairie Landscape, edited by Steven Matijco.
Catherine Hunter’s books include the crime novel Queen of Diamonds (Turnstone Press) and the award-winning poetry collection Latent Heat (Signature Editions). She teaches at the University of Winnipeg.