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Anne Britting Oleson

Elegy for a Christmas That Never Was


At six I lie awake,
staring at the imprint
of the stoplight
through the bedroom window,
there, then gone,
red, then the deep grey
of the predawn.


Hundreds of miles away,
surrounded by people
who haven’t thought of me
in years--and why should they?--
you too are awake
in my imagination,
standing outside the back door
of a house I’ve never seen,
watching the curls of smoke
from your lonely cigarette
lift into the icy early morning,
long before anyone else stirs,
holding an awkward communion
with night and longing
in the cold turning
of yet another year
without me.

Ghosts at the Edge of Sleep


They are trying not to interrupt my sleep,
the old occupants of the older house,
stepping lightly on the stairs.


One at a time they open doors,
cross ill-fitting floorboards, close
things up again behind.


All this I hear on the edges
of waking, not quite a dream: 
I know why they don’t leave me alone,


and yet they try not to bother me,
allowing me to go about the business
of nighttime in the house we uneasily share.

Snow Day 

The beauty of it was waking
to the dim light of a January morning,
muffled as though through cotton wool,
realizing the necessity of leaving
the next of blankets was void.

The beauty of it was having
all obligation to change
out of flannel pajamas tossed aside:
suddenly, no reason at all to leave
the warm cocoon of the house.

The beauty of it was knowing
that as cold and blustery
as the wind down the mountain might be,
it would rattle windows in vain,
shriek wildly without effect,
for the fire burning brightly
at this hearth has fuel enough—
gathered in sweet evenings months ago--
to last until spring comes creeping back.
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