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Winter war

At dawn the birch trees are ice-smacked:
             shocked and glassy.

The man limps across the snow, like a toad,
             his only illness memory.

Light presses against his eyes,
             like a shard of the bottle

he broke over the night
             — though it was the evening,

softer than skin, that had tempted him
             from hiding.

He recalls the suckling: iron-bitter
             as the earth, yet river-silken.

Then the black sky: pricked with stars
             like a medieval device and cold as iron.

How the birch trees, pale as naked men,
             were flayed against them.
Maria Takolander is the author of a book of poems, Ghostly Subjects (Salt Publishing 2009), which was shortlisted for a Queensland Premier’s Literary Award in 2010, and her poems have appeared annually in The Best Australian Poems (Black Inc.) and/or The Best Australian Poetry (UQP) since 2005. She was recently awarded an Australia Council grant to complete a collection, The Double, which will be released by Text Publishing in 2013. She is a Senior Lecturer in Literary Studies and Creative Writing at Deakin University in Geelong.

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