Where are the snows of years gone by?
And where’s the one who came this way
beneath a low and chalky sky
and walked with me that winter day
down hillside woods, past limestone walls,
then up a creek bed deep in snow
to see the frozen waterfalls?
The cataract’s arrested flow
shone like a pillared mound of glass,
all plunge and roar solidified
into a looming blue-green mass.
We stood in silence, side by side,
and winter held us, kept us bound
in consonance like ice and stone,
and laced together on the ground
the only tracks were ours alone.
But lives are fluid, mutable,
not fixed tableaux inside a sphere
where worlds are snowy beautiful
and nothing changes year to year.
I saw that winter melt and go
in icy currents down a stream
and all that bright beguiling snow
become a lost dissolving dream.
They Come Back
The slow river bends
like an elbow, turns
north, scores the valley,
its long smooth largo
keeping time and place.
Wind plucks the trees, pulls
leaves from maple, ash
and oak, scatters them
in swirls, churns the piles
yellow, ocher, brown.
Starlings pitch and wheel,
scrawling their flurried
notes across gray sky.
Dust clouds lift from cut
fields, drift into town.
Fog hangs in streets and
alleys, wraps around
houses, pools beneath
a yellow yard-light,
lingers near a porch.
They come back: a face,
a faint voice, a hand
reaching through the haze.
Sometimes, in soft bronze
weather, they come back.
Underwear hides on the middle wire,
flanked by sheets, long towels, overalls.
Three checkered housedresses pinned at the shoulders
face the neighbor’s yard, puff outward in the wind,
lift their hems to apple trees across the picket fence.
In a hodgepodge cotton frieze, socks toe the outer line.
The hands that hang this washing remember
putting up cloth diapers to dry and whiten in the sun,
two dozen every day in good weather.
Rain or winter meant ropes slung below
the basement ceiling, the wet load sagging and dripping
like a platoon of surrender flags.
Two old people don’t dirty much. A small laundry basket
once a week maybe, if it’s not a Monday for bedding.
The lifting gets heavier, the reaching harder these days.
This clothesline has outlasted her back and arms.
When she said she wanted one, her husband made it himself,
welded steel tubing set in concrete footings.
Spring air brings the sweet talcum scent of lilacs
into the yard and robins fat with eggs.
She snaps wrinkles from a pillowcase, whistles
an old tune, a scrap of cradlesong. It’s a good drying day.
And when she fastens towels corner to corner
with wooden clothespins, she’s back hanging diapers again.