Wind howled outside
the chill tomb of the unheated home,
a jumentous hollowed-out vacant
Dennis was working to rehab.
Frigid Arctic gusts
rattled the frosted window panes
and shook the old bones
in a symphony of susurrus,
a jangly cacophony of random creaking.
Swaddled in layers of ratty sweatshirts
and begrimed well-worn overalls,
he found himself inadequately fortified
against the sharp bite of the cold.
Remembering overhearing a snippet
on the television at the laundromat
about a polar vortex, -50 windchill,
dangerous temps lower than Alaska,
Siberia, even the red planet of Mars,
he decided he couldnÕt stay there.
HeÕd surely die if he did.
So he trekked out into the blistering onslaught of cold,
a cold so bitter and deep it hurt just to breathe.
He trudged on for miles through the desolate urban streets
and the otherworldly quiet of the snow-blanketed landscape,
through the scalding pain from the whipping wind.
When he finally made it to the soup kitchen
he had vowed to stop visiting or at least visit less
as he worked to get his life back on track,
he could no longer feel his fingers, his limbs.
He shook with a shuddering holy violence.
But he trekked on, onward through the sting,
punishing step after punishing step,
until he saw that familiar glow of neon light,
until he could pour dishwasher coffee from the urn
and get something warm and solid in his belly.
He knew theyÕd wouldnÕt find the remains
of some of his friends –
under bridges, in the woods, in forlorn alleys –
for months or even years.
He sipped bitter coffee out of that dingy Styrofoam cup,
still shaking forcefully, tempestuously,
knowing he embarked on his perilous pilgrimage
not a moment too soon.
© Joseph S. Pete
Bio: Joseph S. Pete is an award-winning journalist, an Iraq War veteran, an Indiana University graduate, a book reviewer, a photographer, and a frequent guest on Lakeshore Public Radio. He is a Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net nominee who has read his work for the Fictitious series on the iO Theater stage, had a play staged at the Detroit Heritage Theatre Festival, showcased his photography at the Oddtropolis Art Show in San Francisco and was named the poet laureate of Chicago BaconFest, a feat that Geoffrey Chaucer chump never accomplished. His literary or photographic work has appeared in more than 150 journals, including The Tipton Poetry Journal, Chicago Literati, Dogzplot, Proximity Magazine, Stoneboat, The High Window, Synesthesia Literary Journal, Steep Street Journal, Beautiful Losers, New Pop Lit, The Grief Diaries, Gravel, The Offbeat, Oddball Magazine, The Perch Magazine, Bull Men's Fiction, Rising Phoenix Review, Thoughtful Dog, shufPoetry, The Roaring Muse, Prairie Winds, Blue Collar Review, The Rat's Ass Review, Euphemism, Jenny Magazine, Vending Machine Press and elsewhere. Like Bartleby, he would prefer not to.