Hard Frost

Suddenly, the leaves
cannot keep silent.

They snap like brittle
fingers under torture.

They slice the air
and leave it gasping,

open. At first, they say,
you are too surprised

to feel pain. I think
the air must be

like that today, stunned
into speechlessness

by the violent turning
of what once seemed

innocuous. And I know
where the cold snap gets

its name. The smallest
branches know it too,

as their leaves grow
unbearable with

the resistance of dead
weight. They cannot be

sheltered or shelter
anymore. They crack

against the ground,
and I am surprised

somehow to see
the way they refuse,

still, to shatter.

Ruth Foley lives in Massachusetts, where she teaches English for Wheaton College. Her recent work is appearing or forthcoming in River Styx, Measure, The Ghazal Page, and Umbrella. She also serves as Associate Poetry Editor for Cider Press Review.