A murder of crows,

what I saw on a spindle of dead white oak,

two or three of them, at different times,

hectoring the head of the sick one,

the old one, the weak one apart.

From school those Eskimo stories

in which leathery grandfathers and grandmothers

are left behind or set afloat.

They'd freeze, Mr. Steinman said, from the extremities in.

Thinking about what they must have been thinking,

I imagined the brain last

on the ascending list—

As Freezing persons, recollect the Snow

I read, in chilling poetry,

years later. Even at twelve,

the concept seemed distant, efficient,

in keeping with the clarity

and killing cold of vast, undifferentiated arctic spaces.

In keeping with the landscape of the old.

In the language of the desert Navajo,

the old man didn't drown,

the water came up to get him.

That's how I imagined freezing,

as a kind of incremental drowning,

a sort of slow, word-by-word submersion,

then, at last, the pulling under, rings on water.

The killed crow fell the sixty feet in seconds,

less, though in the while it took

to find it, it had moved. My mother,

alive in the machine,

becalmed on hard white sheets,

the narrative of legs, arms,

animal centers stilled,

some starlight in the mind glittering off

and on, couldn't tell me

whether or not to leave her.