Shawndra Miller

Freeze Warning, April 10

All day I have hunkered indoors, moving words about on a screen,
twiddling through papers—while outside Life
springs forth in its calamitous way, shedding pollen, fur, seeds,
feathers, petals, petiole and leaf:
making way for more Life and more.
As evening sinks into blue splendor I walk the neighborhood,
my dog springing just shy of the end of the leash.
The wind has February teeth, but everywhere is soft Ireland green.
I pass the boy playing a solitary game of hoops.
His bare limbs are an elbow jabbed straight into the throat
of Freeze Warning. He angles under the basket, lets one fly,
showboating for the trees or, perhaps, for an unseen father’s appraisal.
His mother’s newly planted beds are shrouded for the night,
buds veiled under frayed sheets dotted with counterfeit blossoms.
I turn toward home, tugging my wool cap
lower over my ears. On the corner
Roseanne is tending to her cottage garden. (Inside I quail;
I have been afraid of her eyes
ever since my crime of indifference 13 years ago—police cars
at her house, back door kicked in, me on my porch pretending
not to notice—now I expect her gaze to cut me.) So here
she is on the sidewalk, shears drooping to the earth,
holding an armful of burgundy blooms,
and I say, “Are those peonies? This early! They’re gorgeous,”
meeting their velvet faces more easily than hers, and she tells me
about her adored tree peony, which flowers early every year.
“And they smell so good.” She holds
the bouquet out, inviting my lean and whiff. (Like cardamom, citrus, soil,
a bite to my nostrils.) We talk about Freeze Warning, about nature
running ahead of the season, about the coming night, a threat
to the tenderest plants, but on our faces are smiles, and we shrug:
What can you do? Walking home with feet stirring pale dogwood petals,
maple samaras, strings of yellow oak pollen, I leave
a carapace of my own in pieces on the street: pieces weightless enough
to be scoured away by the cold wind of Freeze Warning.

Mennonite by birth, mystic by nature, Shawndra Miller is a writer and community organizer who lives in Indianapolis. She is coauthor of Sudden Spirit: A Book of Holy Moments and is currently working on a nonfiction book about community resilience. Her work has appeared in Edible Indy, Indiana Living Green, Kiwanis Magazine, and Angie’s List Magazine's green building issue.