This Is West – Winter Nights


There is no stillness like winter nights on the plains,
cold creeping through the cracks in the earth
and the gaps around aged windows,
chilling skin and bone even through layers
as I stand just inside the screen door
listening to the watery whisper
of rain against concrete, chain-link, and dust.
Nobody ventures outside these days.

Gone are the noisy children on bicycles,
the families grilling in the summer heat,
and trails of muddy footprints leading
from back porches to swimming pools.
Now the night is matched only briefly by the days
which end as soon as they begin,
a halfhearted trickle of sunlight teasing
barren trees and yellow-brown land.

A whistle blares six blocks east
and the glass door hums with the clamor
of thirty-seven train cars rumbling through;
the neighborhood liberated, briefly,
from the solemn weight of its silence.
I smear a hand through the fog,
stare at puddles illuminated by streetlights,
at sidewalks like smooth black glass.

The racket of the train brings the land to life,
a vibrant glimmer somewhere deep within,
a promise that in the land of two seasons,
the second will eventually return.

(Poetry and Photography by Kayleen Burdine)

Published by

El Portal

Eastern New Mexico University’s literary magazine, El Portal, offers a venue for the work of writers, artists and photographers. ENMU students, national, and international writers are welcome to submit their original, previously unpublished short stories, plays, poetry and photography. No entry fees are charged. Cash prizes are awarded to first-, second- and third-place winners in each category (only ENMU students qualify). El Portal is published each semester at Eastern thanks to Dr. Jack Williamson, a world-renowned science fiction writer and professor emeritus at ENMU who underwrote the publication. El Portal has been published since 1939.