January Storm Warning

The waitress with the steam rise
from an ice shift lake voice
takes my empty wine glass without asking:
brings it back full.
No one else in the bar.

The defeated afternoon sky
dense as cellar stored root vegetables
dense as surge debris
sags just a little like the sifting snow
the drift breakers that form in the avenues of trees.

Tonight’s storm, the tv above the gin bottles warns,
promises that brutality of January
that huddle hides people
that wind wipes away texture:
bark, bird tracks, friction, snow ridge roughness
the grain of asphalt turned to quartz.

And in the morning when everything
is the off white of an unlit bulb
I will think white

I will think At what temperature below zero
     does boiling water thrown into the air
     crystallize instantly?
think When I walk outside will I feel naked?
think How many minutes for my skin to freeze?

White.  Every day for two months.  White.

Until the strengthening sun unglues palings.
Until the sun cleanses them.
Until the sun turns them wooden again.


John Walser is an associate professor of English at Marian University-Wisconsin.  He holds a doctorate in English and Creative Writing from UW-Milwaukee. His poems have appeared in numerous journals, including Spillway, Mantis, the Normal School, The Pinch, december magazine, the Superstition Review, Dressing Room Poetry Journal, Sequestrum and Lumina, as well as in the anthology New Poetry from the Midwest 2017.  A Pushcart nominee and the recipient of the Lorine Niedecker Poetry Award, John is a three-time semifinalist for the Pablo Neruda Prize for Poetry.