Cold in Minnesota

Conservatory (1 of 1)

image by Bill Welsh

A poem by Stephen Dunn

In Minnesota the serious cold arrived
like no cold I’d previously experienced,
an in-your-face honesty to it, a clarity
that always took me by surprise.
On blizzard nights with wires down
or in the dead-battery dawn
the cold made good neighbors of us all,
made us moral because we might need
something moral in return, no hitchhiker
left on the road, not even some frozen
strange-looking stranger turned away
from our door. After a spell of it,
I remember, zero would feel warm—
people out for walks, jackets open,
ice fishermen in the glory
of their shacks moved to Nordic song.
The cold took over our lives,
lived in every conversation, as compelling
as local dirt or local sport.
If bitten by it, stranded somewhere,
a person would want
to lie right down in it and sleep.
Come February, some of us needed
to scream, hurt ourselves, divorce.
Once, on Route 23, thirty below,
my Maverick seized up, and a man
with a blanket and a candy bar, a man
for all weather, stopped and drove me home.
It was no big thing to him, the savior.
Just two men, he said, in the same cold

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