ottawa
Through my window
by A. Garnett Weiss

A slash-of-red finch
on the cedar bowed by ice.
Drifting snow, thigh-high:
I’m mad to choose to live here
and breathe such cutthroat air.

So much white-on-white.
My street, a single lane ploughed
like a country road,
brings to mind cancelled schooldays
and skiing down avenues.

Weekends back then meant
heavy rubber boots, snowsuits,
walks to the café
hand-in-hand with my mother
for tea and patisseries.

Today, narrow paths
between steel and glass towers
create wind tunnels
I watch my neighbors rush through
to reach that place of their own.

I’m at home, here; but,
abandoned by youth and warmth,
I squint at the day.
The brutal wind, the raw light
assault me. I close the blind.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: This piece was written after the temperature and winds combined to create a wind chill of minus 38 Celsius in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, where I live. (At minus 44 degrees, Celsius and Fahrenheit temperatures are the same, I believe.) On that day, my city gained the distinction of being the coldest capital on earth, beating out Mongolia’s Ulan Bator. headlineHere’s a link to a media report. Ottawa, a city of parks and avenues, prides itself on the way it embraces winter. From an outdoor festival that runs for three weeks into February to a 7.8-kilometre canal (= 90 Olympic-sized rinks) that is cleared for skating, there’s a lot invested in making people find good reasons to enjoy the snow and the cold. Snow clearing, though, is not where the city excels! I grew up in this climate, looked forward to sheltering from blizzards, to drinking hot sweet teas, and to wearing winter-warm coats, hats, and mitts. I built snowmen, tobogganed, skated, and skied. I never have felt as alienated by the winter landscape as I did on that arctic-like day. I chose the discipline of the tanka form for each stanza in this poem to capture my views “through my window.”

PHOTOGRAPH: Winter lovers were out skating on the Rideau Canal during a snow storm in Ottawa on Jan 29, 2015. (Tony Caldwell/Ottawa Sun/QMI Agency)

weiss

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Poems by A. Garnett Weiss, writing either under her name or as JC Sulzenko, have been featured on local and national radio and television, online and in anthologies and chapbooks. Her centos won a number of recent awards. Various newspapers have carried her creative nonfiction. She has appeared often on behalf of the Ottawa International Writers Festival, which launched both her play and her book about Alzheimer’s disease, What My Grandma Means to Say. In 2012, she served as poet-mentor for The Gryphon Trio’s Listen UP! Ottawa music and poetry composition project.