Monday Dec 04

HankBacker Hank Backer teaches English at the University of Tennessee. He is a recent graduate of Georgia State University’s creative writing program where he worked as Assistant Editor of Five Points  and Poetry Editor of New South. He has previously been published in Red Paint HillLoose ChangeSixty Six: A Journal of Sonnet Studies, and The Rectangle.

First Snow at Cherokee Ridge Apartments

It’s already turned to rain—the inch or two
that cancelled class greys to slush
and snowmelt swills through an artificial creek.
The felled pine bleaches its spokes, a snowman
melts down to his knobby spine, the mattress
by the dumpster looks factory-new again.

The friendly couple from B have hung pale,
stitched hearts in their window: no yard
but they haven’t missed a holiday.
It’s our first winter here, and our ceiling
has never felt so permeable—our neighbors
fuck each other harder than we do, use all
the hot water, fight about dwindling groceries.

I slice apples for a pie, translucent-thin—
the veiny wedges look like the stained onion skin
we studied under microscopes in high school Biology.
Dull nuclei spotted at random the empty cells:
how lifeless life looked, how desolate.
Our teacher lectured: the word cell first
referred to monks’ rooms, then to prison.

Your knuckles are brushed with cinnamon
you ground yourself. The pie is cooling,
the neighbors quiet. Our window frames
icicles and the witch hazel that bloomed early:
inside their nest, two robins know nothing of emptiness.


Cars smolder in their driveways, sloughing
last night’s snow, which has perfected even
the trash: gloves missing fingers, a phonebook
smeared across fifty feet of sidewalk.

And I want winter all at once: a great blue floe
to buckle skyscrapers like the one wave that ends
New York in disaster movies, everyone waiting
for the bus now waiting to be excavated.

When I was eight, I froze my toys in Mom’s
wine glasses—shards littered the freezer,
but on the frosted stems stood the battles
dictated by the ice age of my imagination:

Legos at each other’s throats, plastic robots,
my favorite Hot Wheels mid-skid.
Mom didn’t get it, and I watched from my room
as they melted in the backyard, my framed chaos,

my unshakable snow globes. You can’t make
these things last, she never told me.
On their bed of ice, my toys looked
in wrong directions, like fish at the supermarket.