How dare the wind knock at my door,
stagger on my step, and bluster in.
I’m not the fool I was before.
He ran his hands across my skin.
“Just tell me what you want,” he said.
“You’ve only brought me cold and rain,
dead leaves and dirt.” I shook my head.
“I’ve changed,” he said. “Let’s try again.”
“Once I offered up my prayers,” I said.
“You took them, leaving me bereft.
There is nothing you haven’t had
and nothing you have ever kept.”
I leaned against my battered door.
He slipped a note under the sill.
It read, “I cannot wait much more.
I can hold anything but still.”
The wind banged his delicate head
against my front door’s rotting boards.
“Nothing hurt me more,” he said,
“than all your selfish, cutting words—
Let me have you once,” said the wind,
“hold you and fly through the darkness.
I’ll never say that you have sinned.”
I felt his hand brush past my breast.
I opened the entrance a crack.
The wind pushed my heavy door wide.
I quickly slammed the dead bolt back,
but he’d already slipped inside.
He broke my glass and stumbled.
I said, “You won’t be my lover.”
With a distant look he mumbled,
“You will never have another.”
“I will not have you, still,” I vowed.
The wind shook me and said, “Listen,
nothing can stop this nightmare now.
I’ve no beginning and no end.”
Don’t you see,” he said. “I’m trapped too.”
His breath raised the hairs on my nape.
I tried to push him but fell through—
what you can’t love, you can’t escape.
Holly Woodward is a writer and artist. Her book of poems, Sin for Beginners, was finalist for the National Poetry Series. She served as writer in residence at Saint Albans, Washington National Cathedral, and continues to teach at various schools. She is working on a novel.
“Windfall” was selected by Adam Kirsch as the winner of the 92nd Street Y Rachel Wetzsteon Prize. Kirsch writes: “I admire the way the poem creates its erotic and Gothic atmosphere, making it feel like an old legend being retold; the form of the poem contributes to this effect by achieving the movement of a ballad. I also like the way it captures the ambivalence of desire, the speaker's simultaneous desire to repel the wind and to succumb to it. I especially enjoyed the line "I can hold anything but still," a good verbal conceit that communicates the wind's mutability and insistence. "Windfall" is an especially appropriate poem to win a prize named after Rachel Wetzsteon because I think it has a real affinity with her work—the balance of fear and wit, the focus on the dark side of love and sex, and the intelligent handling of poetic form.