Cold Front


What had been streams in the alley

hardened to brutal glass.

Clouds roared overhead

like blue-veined continents;


everywhere, power-lines and tree limbs

lay in the affronted road.

The house seemed to flinch

under the sky’s cold fist,


which slammed the backyard gate

and banged on the downspout.

The grass, hard now as leather,

creaked when you walked on it;


you pitied anyone who was out

and wondered how outdoor animals

fared in that combing wind.

A rabbit crouched under a bush.


A crow on top of a cottonwood

surfed the clicking branch ends

and with obsidian insolence

shook his wings at God.


James Armstrong has published poems in Gulf Coast, Orion, The Snowy Egret, The New York Times Book Review, Shade, Poetry East and elsewhere.  He is the author of two books, Monument in a Summer Hat (New Issues Press, 1999) and Blue Lash (Milkweed Editions, 2006). Armstrong is a recipient of the PEN-New England Discovery Prize, an Illinois Arts Council Fellowship and a Minnesota State Arts Board Fellowship in poetry. He is a Professor of English at Winona State University in Winona, Minnesota.