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.