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Neil Shepard: Local Freeze

Delray, Florida, March 13, 2022


Northerner, stranger, I’ve been visiting my failing mother in her gated 

golf community. Yesterday, I wandered under the gumbo limbos,

thinking of her inevitable descent, while green iguanas scattered 

under the fallen copper succulents. Flat lines of black clouds 

rolled over the Everglades, pelting the land with cold rain, 

then, briefly, almost impossibly, hail, over the wetlands and dredged 

fields, reminding us how fragile the grapefruits and oranges.

Indoors, the TV’s evening broadcast was almost unbearable,

tank columns crushing the suburbs as they advanced on Kiev,  

so at dawn, it’s almost unsurprising to hear herons scream

outside in the bluing jet-stream and something hump and gurgle 

under the roofline, roosts of ibises, perhaps, unsettled by this sudden 

cold snap from the north and mass murder half a world away 

lit on everyone’s CNN flat-screen with their morning coffee, 

bulldozers plowing bodies into mass graves and the newscaster’s 

dim analysis numbing us despite the caffeine hit.


I slip on a coat and slip out to the screened porch, watching small lizards

the color of cement stiff on sidewalks, stuck to their pre-dawn spots 

until sun and body temps rise, but now they’re sitting ducks 

for electric lawn-carts, a few workers rattling by with rakes and shears. 

Beneath their wheels, the sod’s tough enough to harbor earthworms 

still aerating the soil, and lower down, layers of helium push upward 

like optimism, bolstering the earth’s crust where a cold line of ants, 

stunned and listless, makes no advance from pizza crust to ant-nest. 

If I lift my head and look back through glass doors to the living room,

I can see the flat-screen, those columns of tanks stuck outside Kiev, 

their husks burnt from stinger-jets and drone-strikes, punished 

for scorching the earth earlier elsewhere where everything on, 

and under, it, either perished or surrendered, and nevertheless, 

perished. From here I can click the remote, shift to a local channel 

where the morning forecaster hasn’t yet decided whether we’ll dodge 

the freeze or whether all the fruit will perish. 

Copyright 2022 Neil Shepard

Neil Shepard’s many books include How It Is: Selected Poems (Salmon Poetry 2018). He edits The Plant-Human Quarterly published by the Otherwise Collective.

Invasive iguanas are multiplying so rapidly in south Florida that the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission said people should exterminate the lizards on their properties. (credit: The Guardian)

5 comments on “Neil Shepard: Local Freeze

  1. Loranneke
    November 15, 2022

    SUCH imagery & contrasts and heart!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Dennis Sovick
    November 15, 2022

    Insightful words. Wish it wasn’t still relevant.


    • Neil Shepard
      November 16, 2022

      All too relevant, old friend. Let’s hope winter forces an eventual truce.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Rose Mary Boehm
    November 15, 2022

    Still moves me. Shall read it again soon. Thank you.


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This entry was posted on November 15, 2022 by in Environmentalism, Health and Nutrition, Poetry and tagged , , , , , , , .

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