Conversations on the First Snow Fall
Silence falls long before the first flakes.
My small dog Blackie ran in circles, seemed to be the first to know.
She would disappear into the drifts, only her wagging tail visible,
fetching snowballs tossed by me. An impossible task, of white
on white, but she would emerge each time victorious, the taste
of my hands on her eager tongue.
The sides of the sleigh held me. I sat in the middle like a puffed up dove,
three years old, hat drawn over my ears. Cousin Gordon sat behind me,
he hugged my waist so we didn’t fall out. Into my memory I engraved
the snow bound trees, sounds of the sleigh steeling through the streets,
my brother’s breath like dragon fire, swallowed by the cold.
Later he cleared the steps to the house, raised a mound of snow taller
than himself, fourteen years old, tall like my father. Built a snow fort, talked
me into going inside. I marched in fearlessly, my blue snowsuit squeaked
with every step. I shivered from the cold, ice flashed on the surface,
a crystal dome smoothed by his hands. I was brave to please him.
My father was a snow whistler, could tell you if it was going to snow
whistling into the wind. Head raised, he would offer three clear
notes and count 1,2,3,4…waiting for the silence to return to his ears.
Four hours till it comes down hard, better get wood for the fire.
It all seems so far away. It is close. I would hear him say,
Better get wood for the fire, it won’t be long now.
This day there is warmth,
breath makes no ghostly images,
air tastes of a sweetness that recalls.
A curve of melting snow arches
its back against the sky, yields
to the warmth of a premature spring.
Near by, a Vesper Sparrow offers
his intentions, casting love serenades
into the fragile February air.
He offers them up lustily, that another
might hear, understand the signs. I hear you
whisper, Life is short and the grave is long.
A summer house, with a coral roof,
not far from here is boarded. Inside sighs
of lovers linger on the hand planed beams,
the hush of soft palms, songs of pleasure.
I go there to unclothe the boarded windows,
to prepare and wait for you.
Your Phone Call
A sea of wind against the trees of February, howling low-belly groan that brings me
to the window. The neighbor’s sentry light pulses in full daylight, on and off,
on and off, it warns of the trespass of gusts, invisible banshees of this morning.
The stained snow is topped with remnants of seed cast out for the birds. What remains are the hulls. Come April they will be raked, placed into black bags, left for the garbage men, who will sling them onto their trucks.
This week, a dear friend called, told me she infuses herself with antibiotics, the intended assassins of bacteria that eat away at her leg.
We talked a long time, the conversation adrift with humor. It was the talk of thirty years. Most was already understood. I tell her I hold her to the Light, hold her in my vision
of our walking through her home in New Hampshire, the poured glass windows rippling sun images on the broad-beamed floors, the garden in full bloom, the way I saw
it for the first time.
“No more chemo,” she says. “My body is breaking down.”
Wind trembles the bamboo, pines twist their heavy skirts, voodoo dancers possessed, their torsos slice morning light into macabre images that move across my lawn.
As a child, I was frightened by the wolves my father made with his hands, their mouths opening and closing on my bedroom wall. I begged him to stop.
How easy it would be, if my pleading could stop the howling wind, this sea of trespass. Build us an ark, I ask! Send us a boat of light.