Winter Hyphenation

Knit cap above, two squinting eyes below
Face frozen fresh-fall snowfall, white as snow.
Constricted pupils dim the sight and fight
Against the blinding sunrise-lumined light.

An ice-chill world where exhaled, hot breath steams
And wreathes a winter wonderland of dreams
Where muffled footfalls squeaky-clean impress
Compressive tracks of boot-print, grid-soled steps
Across an untouched whipped cream wilderness.

The acrid scent of flue-smoke fills the air,
Arising from a nearby cabin where
A wood frame, rime-encrusted window sash
Droops like a frozen-frosted man’s moustache.

A bare-bald hill provides a slick-slope slide
Where children whoop and holler as they glide.
Beneath it all the earth awaits the spring
When meadowlarks and sparrows on the wing
Return to sap-filled, green-bud trees and sing.



James A. Tweedie is a retired pastor living in Long Beach, Washington. He has written and published six novels, one collection of short stories, and three collections of poetry including Mostly Sonnets, all with Dunecrest Press. His poems have been published nationally and internationally in The Lyric, Poetry Salzburg (Austria) Review, California Quarterly, Asses of Parnassus, Lighten Up Online, Better than Starbucks, Dwell Time, Light, Deronda Review, The Road Not Taken, Fevers of the Mind, Sparks of Calliope, Dancing Poetry, WestWard Quarterly, Society of Classical Poets, and The Chained Muse. He was honored with being chosen as the winner of the 2021 SCP International Poetry Competition.

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16 Responses

  1. Roy Eugene Peterson

    You certainly made use of hyphenation, thus the perfect title. The imagery of winter is vivid and imaginative. I always enjoy your works.

  2. Norma Pain

    I love your very descriptive poem James. Especially the last line, “Return to sap-filled, green-bud trees and sing”, since we are sitting beneath a foot of snow in Parksville, and expecting another foot today, (“whipped cream wilderness”) … beautiful.

  3. Paul Freeman

    I could almost throw a snow-ball at you, the scene’s so vivid.

    Fave Line: ‘A wood frame, rime-encrusted window sash / Droops like a frozen-frosted man’s moustache.’

    Though there are many to choose from.

    Thanks for the read, James.

    • James A. Tweedie

      Paul, The image you refer to is drawn from years back when I was living in Northern Utah and wearing a moustache while cross-country skiing, It’s quite the thing to have miniature icicles dangling beneath one’s nose!

  4. Sally Cook

    James – Careful. incisive, and as carefully read; with one of my favorite ageless paintings to illustrate it! Who could ask for more?

    Well done, James !

  5. Morrison Handley-Schachler

    Very evocative, descriptive words, James. I see you are from Washington State. It sounds as though it must be beautiful there in Winter – but freezing cold.

    • James A. Tweedie

      Morrison, Actually, I live on the Pacific coast in southwest Washington. Although we had a few snowflakes floating around the other day, the snow in our area is not expected to “stick” here at sea level–at least not this week!

      When it does “stick”–which it does about once every other year–it is beautiful. If you follow the attached link, you can read a poem I wrote about one such day several years ago including a picture I took that morning on the beach, just a block from my house.

      And thank you for your kind words.

  6. Joseph S. Salemi

    I like the lavish use of compound words here, which is something that should be employed more in English. Look at what Tweedie has:


    This has to be deliberate, I think. It summons up the deep Germanic roots of English, where such compounding is common.

    • James A. Tweedie

      That’s a good list. Some of them are established word-pairs, but most are original constructs by which I attempted to create a new condensed or concentrated meaning from two words whose combined meaning enlarges or transcends that of their separate usage. Four of the pairs also serve as mini-alliterations and, if one wished to stretch the point, several could also be loosely described as proto-onomatopoeia, in that when read out loud, they sound like what they mean.

      In writing prose, one cannot easily get away with this kind of word-construction but when creating poetry, I feel it is almost a duty to stretch words, meanings, grammar and language as a whole as far as possible without creating gibberish.

      To attempt this within the constraints of set forms, meter, and rhyme poses a creative challenge that often results in new ways of doing old things. This poem was an example of one such attempt. I am glad the hyphens contributed to the poem’s success.

    • Joshua C. Frank

      Yes, I like this, too. It would probably help my poetry some if I added this technique to my poetic toolbox. I’m always on the lookout for these!

  7. Cheryl Corey

    James, one of my favorites phrases is “whipped cream wilderness” – very unique; and “slick-slope slide … Where children whoop and holler as they glide” provides strong imagery. It takes me back to when, as kids, we always looked forward to sledding and sliding down our own backyard slope. The poem has all the feel of a Currier & Ives lithograph. Aaahh…

  8. Margaret Coats

    I very much like the title, turning your winter scene from one of hybernation to one of hyphenation, in which tension and activity predominate, as they tend to do in hyphenated words. The poem uses not only creatively hyphenated words, but accepted compounds that have lost the hyphen if they ever had it (such as snowfall and meadowlark). And there are more that could have a hyphen, such as “wood frame,” which is two words as adjective plus noun, but is often hyphenated for clarity when used only as an adjective (wood-frame sash).
    The artistry with one special kind of word does not detract from, but contributes to, a picturesque winter scene in perfect iambic meter. From my point of view, the meter is what makes this poem as lovely as it is–and of course, iambic compounds (hyphenated or not) greatly assist that music.

    • James A. Tweedie

      Glad you caught the pun, Margaret! And glad you noticed the compound words and other combos that could have been hyphenated. These word forms were also intentional in constructing the poem. The effect, I hoped, would be cumulative. Your comment (and others—for which I am very grateful) appears to confirm that my effort was successful.

      • Joseph S. Salemi

        English sometimes hyphenates compound words, and sometimes doesn’t (as with Margaret’s examples of “snowfall” and “meadowlark”), while German seems almost always to compound without such hyphens, and has a tendency to compound quite a lot of stuff into one big word. Check out this comparison:

        Fliegerabwehrkanone – Anti-aircraft gun

        Notice that in this case we partially hyphenate, partially use an unhyphenated compound, and then have a separate word. But the Germans put it all together, and circumvent lengthiness by abbreviating the word as FLAK, which we have borrowed.

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