Now is the time to find color where you can—
in poinsettias, pine trees, fire and wine,
or strings of Christmas lights hung like prayers
to glow warm against the winter’s gathering dark.
Now is the time to buy scarves, mittens and
brandy; to collect light in baubles and bottles,
and burn candles for their smell of smoke and wax.
Now is the time to pray to unfamiliar saints.
How they float, like flower petals on a moveless lake.
How they are pale and gray and stone. You press
your lips to their sainted feet; light a candle; kneel. Light
streams in colored smoke from the cathedral windows.
The statues regard you, unmoved, pious faces tinted
with rose and sun and dusk, stony eyes in shadow.
You are bowed in sublime supplication. You shiver
under their snowy gaze; breathe smoke into your hands.
Winter is closer now than it was. You can feel
its icy breath seed under the doorway and window panes,
like a ghost that bites your toes and clenches your lungs.
You never are without it, now. The cold hugs you under
bundles of quilts; clings to you with clammy, brittle hands.
You try to chase it, first with candles and prayers
sent up on plumes of smoke, then with liquor and
whores with fevered, jewel-colored eyes.
But nothing, nothing, nothing can pry you from its clasp.
The earth is gray. The is sky smoky and mute,
and the clouds droop earthward, swollen with snow. How
the winter bears down—its savage breath splinters the windows,
as if they were ice, and snuffs your candles’ flames. How
their smoky ghosts rise and rise
long before they could hope to reach heaven.
Ash Evan Lippert is a clay artist and emerging queer poet residing in the South Carolina upstate. Their poetry and fiction center on the exploration of liminal states of consciousness, emotionality, and selfhood through the lens of their experiences with mental illness. Ash’s work has appeared or is forthcoming in Failed Haiku and Euonia Review. They are happily at work on their first novel, and the ongoing project of parenting two “whimsical” cats.