16. How To Read A Winter Field

Summer’s illuminated manuscript is gone.

Nothing green or luxuriant remains.

This field of snow is a severe parchment.

A few autumn grasses penetrate its crust.

Collaborating with the wind, thin stalks

and seed heads scratch back and forth.

This field of snow reveals some basics.

On its plain whiteness, rabbits, mice, coyotes

inscribe histories of frenzied survival.

Throughout the winter they track this field

with skittish penmanship. Their deaths,

blotting it red, are out in the open.

But beneath the snow, voles and weasels

knot into warmth, where no fundamentalist tract

in white and black spellsl out their dreams.

— Elizabeth Schultz

Having retired from the University of Kansas in 2001, Elizabeth Schultz now balances scholarship on Herman Melville and on the environment with writing essays and poems about the people and places she loves. She has published two critical works on Melville, two collections of poetry, one book of short stories, and published her scholarship and poetry widely.


2 thoughts on “16. How To Read A Winter Field

  1. Thanks so much for your insight. I have often enjoyed the tracks in the snow and wondered what story they could tell. I am a native from Wichita and grew up there but have spent the bulk of my life at Pittsburg State University. I will be 80 on March 5 and I am proud to say I am a Kansan! In retirement I have spent my time as a wildlife and nature photographer. I record what I can see but your work records what I feel. Thanks!

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