Like cellophane stretched tightly over the mouth
of a jar, a thin skin of ice spans the slack water
while Elizabethan collars of frozen lace grace crusted
and glossy rocks congregating in the riffles. Thick
old chunks huddled along the shore are healed
together from days of thaw following frost. Lumpy
and uneven, in fleeting sunlight they appear like solidified clouds.
Mergansers swim skittishly in pockets of dark open
water. Formally dressed in a duck’s tuxedo of black
and white winter plumage, they dive and disappear
into the frigid current. Fishing wherever the river
hasn’t frozen, they resurface nearly dry, often a silvery
minnow grasped in saw-edged jaws. Small and slender,
their spike-like orange bills are lit with the sharpest color yet alive.