Two Poems

by Andy Havens (March 2020)

Red House and Spruces, Edvard Munch, 1927



Frozen Stories


In the Midwest I stood squint

in the bonefocused wind, making

a risky reckoning best left to the wise,


measuring a slab of ice against the way

the weather’s been and how long

and daring (or not) to step out onto it.


But this is Northwest February and

I barely get to speak of ice at all out here,

or hear tales of boys fallen through


over the years and how once you’re under

the black water moves to keep you.

I barely get to speak of ice out here


or worry that a spot of skin’s gone white.

The weather asks so little of me

that I’ve begun to beg memory to list


wispy words and show hung pictures

of winterfear. But memory’s different

from knowing like guessing’s different


from fearing and I know that if I ever

do get to speak of ice out here

it’ll be so whisperthin that every one


of mom’s drowning boys would have

measured it beneath them to even try.

They would just walk around the sound,


well trained by a place where

the weather asks so much of them

and ice is always on their tongues.




Morning’s Mile


In the cities there is nothing

to milk but time. You are spared

the poetics of rote labor.


There is no duty to recall

in that strange awakening

of late adulthood


mother’s feathered hands

or the careful thud, thud,

thud of father’s boots trying


helplessly not to wake you yet.

In the cities when young

men find themselves wearing


their own fathers’ rent vestments

they do not smell like

dirt, shit, and oil.


They smell like paper

and staples and the florid

lining of a brass-clasped


briefcase swung swish,

swish against a silk-slacked



In the cities young fathers

grow up slight and light

because their histories weigh


less and don’t ask much

muscle to carry around.

They lack the heraldic sound


of the only engine in a morning’s mile

being turned churlishly over and

breathing exhausted clouds into an


unhidden sky. But in the city in

the street where a thousand engines run

you don’t hear a single one.

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Andy Havens writes poetry, fiction, and essays in Seattle, Washington. His poetry has been published at Seattle University, and his short fiction has been a finalist in a Glimmer Train competition. Andy is a dedicated husband, full-time father, and US Army veteran who is studying the Arabic language.

Follow NER on Twitter @NERIconoclast