Saturday, November 28, 2015




The moving calligraphy of snow
snatched by the wind and swept in little scrawls
snakes across the black asphalt plaza.
For now, it is a gift of space,
empty of apple crates,
and unwashed girlfriends
with bad teeth, selling books.
No smell of pickpockets in the market.
No spilled hot cider or frozen fish.
Crowds of steamy-breathed shoppers,
bundled up, squeezed between pavilions
are now only shadowed thoughts, only
sliding astral shifts trailing passing cars.
The nannies pushing
white babies in carriages are gone.
Flower stalls are only a memorial smudge.
The fields are picked over and frost hardened,
and well beyond an easy day-trip drive.

Now the cold snap explodes, renewed,
the tip of a wet towel iced up, howling,
hurling welts on the municipality.
It drives snow into the doorways,
under the cardboard walls of bums
whose shaking hands hold tea and spread popcorn
beneath the torn furniture blankets
where the sparrows scavenge.
Cubist thought processes bubble:
Real Life Drama, fractured among personalities.
Displayed collages of torn and multicolored
Bits of easy-art psyche.
Blind hawks under drawn hoods
making collective sense only on
the other side of economic independence;
to those with hats, gloves and mufflers,
and on their way to work:
the heated cubicle,
the sightless fluorescent light
warm, yet sterile, staring down
from the hung ceiling.
Cold in the mind’s eye
and still no escape.
On the outside, perfection in
multiples of billions flashes cold
around the corner stone,
it’s frozen heart the tomb
of fossils, the remains of
an earlier, warmer age.

To walk in deep snow,
a traveler in the night blizzard;
to bear witness to the blowing crystals
as they curtain the way
concealing my meandering progress:
There is a sort of safety among the shifting drifts,
a serenity amidst the appearance of expanding space:
security beneath hood and overcoat,
economy in the blank blowing white.
Vision is obscured and background obliterated.
Only clean smooth line remain.
Sound is muffled, subdued;
muted, discrete units of sonority’
dimly broadcast and distant
sift through the falling snow.
Those others encountered in the landscape
are draped in virgin white, are children,
shoulders layered in laced frost’
picking their way among their first steps
along the unsalted side of the street,
its sins not yet manipulated, their feet dry,
the contents of their stomachs
held tight and comfortable,
solid and warming, fuel for the walk.
Protected, we all plow the frigid softness
only to have our trails quickly covered.
We are blind to what lays buried and unseen,
absolved, for the moment, of obligations.
With a renewed wonder of What It Is
the journey extends beyond the present,
beyond dimension and ending,
counting the cold sting of each flake and
vindicating the voyage of the sailor through
storm and sea, as the ship is moored
fast to the dock on a wintry night.
Journeying past the unprobed,
through gas and solid in suspension,
taking comfort in knowing
I will arrive quietly, unannounced.

The young are unaffected.
Stationary, they burn away the hours
like idling, freshly primed engines
immune in a elsewhere existence.
Few have yet learned to become invisible
and pass, enfolded, from tree to tree
a Lover in the embrace of the icebound park.
They still wish for summer.  They still burn,
beacons at the cliff’s edge while the cold sea
churns among the rocks around them.
They are well mortared, vigilant,
searching for the strange ship,
the cold too new to be of use,
their few memories aching for repetition.
They are consumed in the violence of growth,
the taut snapping of expectation,
and warmed with stretching experience.
the stillness of the glazed matrix between
jutting trunks holds no fascination for them.

Blowing night pulls covers
on sleeping bodies, back to back,
fetal, sucking at life with each frigid breath,
on cardboard pads and soaked moving blankets
in box houses shuddering in the
fluttering roar, camouflaged
along the walls, tucked between pillars
in the derelict side entrance between avenues.
Belongings stored in plastic garbage bags
serve as windbreaks instead of ilex.
A restless night of sleep cut with
counting winds and constant tucking.
Checking.  A wait, primarily.
A conservation of energy until
in its turn, as is its nature,
dawn illuminates the knife of the blizzard
in blue-gray monochrome.
Juncoes forage beneath the shrubs.
Feathers puffed, safe on the lea side of a drift,
they find the hidden seeds.
The slicing cold plumbs human pores;
it freezes forehead taught and stiff.
Cheek and larynx tingle.
Stone structures emerge and pass
making all that was solid, fluid.
The séance of blowing snow
calls shadowed images, one after another
faded, fading, ephemeral, and finally
gone again into the grayness and quickly forgotten:
the propelled flickering of the solid,
the transience of nuclei,
the space between flakes.

Vibration condensed.
It takes the wiping out of snow
to swallow all and reduce it
to steam at the river’s edge,
where the effluence from the power plant
mixes with the salt tide and warms the fish.
The heavy metals in the mud below
gain activation; the creosote log
rolls against the concrete bulkhead.
Pintails and Scaups bob in the current,
sweeping them out to sea with snow on their backs.
Their mating colors are yet months away,
stowed safe in treeless tundra
where mice burrow under the crusty snow
unseen by the fox or gyrfalcon.
A section of sidewalk blown bare
connects two steaming sewers,
catch basins choked with accumulations of slush.
Briefly, there is a naked exposure,
a pornography of squashed bodies hurrying
to certain dissolution in the grey swirl
past glowing storefronts, windows opaque.
The slick danger of the lurking cellar door
goes unnoticed until it’s too late.
The Slip.  The Fall.  The Hospital.
There is the manufactured warmth of the
adrenaline rush, then the return
of steadiness and Reason.  Thought is lost;
it is the last of the coins
fallen beneath the snow.

In the stillness of the wooded ravine
the partridge lies buried, insulated
beneath a small mound of snow
wintering the frigid days unseen.
A pair of deer push through the drifts
in the blowing sun on the side of a hill,
across the submerged pasture,
making for the cover of naked shrubbery
on the far side, again hidden, jewelry safe.
Precious visions, briefly witnessed.
Satyr and Nymph seen through the scratched
plexiglass of a face mask and muffled
under the foam helmet liner;
coarse whine surrounding,
tread and runner slicing.
The pervasive smell of gasoline precludes
any perception that the trees are empty.
The rabbit’s silence has been shattered.

Briefly, there is dread in the coming of March:
in late February the frozen crust,
softened by the sun far too soon
reveals an archaeology of waste:
broken bottles and the slop of feces,
flaccid strips of soggy cardboard.
The corpse of a dead pigeon.
Big Toms in matted winter coats
pick their way along the curb,
sneezing and hacking,
contemplating assassinations.
The low afternoon sun
cannot cancel the long nights.
Cold weather viruses accumulate.
Intestinal parasites drain the body,
wielding dysentery and hunger.
How easily the smooth labels
slip off the cold wet bottles
leaving only a sticky vacancy.

Again comes the muzzle of a cold front
and all is put in suspended animation;
all is meat for the freezer and cold containers.
A blizzard rolls a new layer of fresh snow
over the flats along Wyalusing Creek.
There is serenity of form, fluffed over
with a myriad sifting of crystals:
the perfection of fractals speaks,
intuited only through the language of advanced calculus,
or the scratching of turkey and crows
for the fallen cobs along the corn rows.
The tales the tracks tell are only hinted at,
static radio programs left to the imagination,
to be guessed at through a cloud of frozen breath
the fear of snow blindness tucked away
behind the memories of a slitted bone mask
worn by the Inuit seal hunter crouching at the blow hole.
The predator’s stalk along the horizon
facilitates the clear suspension of time, eliminates
all projections at the moment of the kill;
and the prey, once taken, leaves only angels’ wings
pressed into the thin crust, lit in gold by the low sun.
The solvency of Innocence in Virgin blue,
are treasures, intricate transparencies,
a clean laser, cut of crystal and unobstructed
in its circuit of the continuum.

The plain purity of snow is ultimately,
superseded by the new Spring.
All the dead rise, stiff corpses made pliant,
veins pumping with renewed ambition
with the Druids’ juice of a new equinox
in a mad scramble for the sun.
For now, though, there is the solitude between the hills,
the clear echoes of the woodpecker hammering,
hammering for the cool soft fatted grubs beneath the bark.
Having reached the end of the flats behind the houses,
a doe leaps and flies across the corn stubble,
kicks up sprays of snow as she heads for the
hill across the road, risking all at the pavement.
She hesitates at the double yellow line
then is down over the other side
safely, in a cradling cushion of snow
passing into the shadows in the dimming light;
leaving, once again, a silent landscape of rolling winter.
I let the skis push of the track and into the deep drift,
into the deeper part of the woods at dusk,
out of sight of the road, the traffic.
I plow its crust for secrets and dare its twisting trails
deep in the tight ravines, through the snow covered Hemlocks.
I the last light, with the wind from behind,
I stride straight north across the open evening.
Home is at the other end of the smooth fields.
White, softened to blue, smoothes the slide,
the kick and glide over the cut cornstalks buried.
Across the creek and the danger of ice
is the warm kitchen, the safety of the vestibule
with its lines of wet shoes and gloves.
The husk of snow plastered to the back of my legs
can be shed and the pink calves rubbed warm.
there is the security of the hot shower,
the insulation of immediate family,
the narcosis of domestic life.
Outside, still the anti-freeze lies preserved under ice,
the dead opossum lies buried and unseen at the side of the road
and the pigeon falls silent and stiff in the stillness of
the subzero night and the wind blows across the plaza
in the empty early hours, awaiting morning’s dim illumination.

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