Ice Cover on Lake Michigan

by Ella Nowicki

One hundred thousand years ago

a glacier flung its arms out wide

and dipped a gelid finger in the Mississippi.

It stumbled through the doorway to the north,

rolling mountains out like carpet.

 

It left us sweet cold lakes

in whittled bedrock where

a crackled breeze in late December

would lull them all to sleep.

The lakes ducked under riptides,

closed their glassy eyes,

clutched their algae-freckled knees

against their rushing chests.

 

Ice sidled from the stony shore

towards a drumming heartbeat

in the deepest, sloshing center,

where blaring lights of cargo ships

diffused in addled silence—

sheet-metal grizzlies

hibernating on a

wind-purged plain.

 

Ribbon clouds spoke frozen words

that skimmed through vacant ports

and settled in between the 

jumbled tesserae of ice, with

snow and rabbit prints

as dense as grout.

 

This winter, the wind

breathes damp,

gorged on delicate dioxins.

 

This winter, the heart

beats warmer, flushing

ice floes out through arteries.

 

This winter, the veins

relay not curled white waves

but soybean-field runoff.

 

This winter, the skin

cracks like desert mud and

ice-clutched steamboat bellies

saunter through the lake again.

 

This winter, the December breeze

has lost its voice.

 

This winter, the sleep-starved lake

forgets its glaciers altogether.