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                        CLIMBING A LADDER IN THE COLD

                                                                I manage the ascent one slippery
                                                                rung at a time, testing the balance
                                                                and stability of steel legs set
                                                                in an uncertain drift of snow beneath
                                                                the eaves. I reach the metal gutter
                                                                with shaking hands and knees,
                                                                surprised that I have no far view,
                                                                only the thick glacial dam of ice,
                                                                equal to my watering eyes,
                                                                that formed storm after storm
                                                                while I slept oblivious way south
                                                                where no one owns a scoop shovel.

                                                                Winter greets me with a stolid grip,
                                                                one I attempt to emulate as I hold
                                                                the short, sharp hatchet and swing,
                                                                remembering the incessant ice I chopped
                                                                from stock tanks and river water holes
                                                                in another life. I no longer mourn
                                                                the frozen corpses of calves,
                                                                or the pathetic bellowing
                                                                of bereft cows with full bags.
                                                                What I miss is the strength I once had
                                                                to beat back the blue transparence,
                                                                believe I’d never succumb to the cold.

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