Crossing into Albany over the River

It’s only just started to snow past Poughkeepsie. The conductor says take a walk, take a smoke, take ten minutes, but no more. The dining car is closed. Crossing over the Hudson, the Basques take over, and then chemise a la Reine, then the bones of our ancestors. OrlandoEthan Frome. Scraggly woods which promise wolves, past the snowy mists. Splashes of red down in the ditch, like blood, like cell clusters mounting the tributary arteries; wheat follicles line the face of another world.

Deep in the snow, black waters trudge on unimpeded yet slowly, with the viscosity of sludge, carrying winter within it. In that way we are the same. People tend not to consider bears; wolves — the threat of packs and coordinated attack — seem far worse and more eminent than a lumbering, engorged, large-eyed beast. But it can run. It has claws. Weight behind power, instead of agility.

In the white wild, there is the body, there is the big red machine, a warm heart pumping blood in the cold. The tassels of the pines must survive in the wind and snow, a faint plumage to brighten the dead, stripped of all but the internal life preserved in syrup and sap. Pikes find themselves stacked into coherence, shapes we recognize; placed before their dormant brethren, spared in place of uselessness, too thin, too unsubstantiated; too uncontrolled. Always a capacity for ignorance.

If you run your tongue over the roof of your mouth, it feels like waves. Bare trees offer blooded cones; the water churns with river silt and sand, gravid with ice, while upstream a ways the water steams in the cold air. All dormant, a natural gestation until the spring, so you can come back renewed. The big red machine, churning onwards.

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