Snow Was General

Snow Was General

I was going to call this To Watch the World Fill, but I just used that title for a blog post. How should I have known I wasn’t done with the topic and would want it more later? So here is it, renamed for expediency’s sake.

I don’t think of myself as a real poet. I’m no good with form and meter. But sometimes words want to shape themselves into these odd patterns of oddly spaced lines and sometimes I let them. And sometimes I’m a little satisfied with what they do.

To Watch the World Fill

All day and all night the snow was general
all over Holbrook,
falling softly, softly falling.
All day my head was throbbing
Until I had to draw the curtains against
the impossible brightness
of snow on snow on snow.

Outside it fell, the sparrows
and chicadees, the juncos and titmice
might have come and gone from the feeder
but I wouldn’t have known.
The ground disappeared and then
the tops of tables and fences. The drifts
obliterated everything.

But inside I shivered and turned
up the heat. Not enough the Advil and the
darkness and the burr of the
space heater. I needed
a Coke, ice-cold, and a hot
bag of corn for my feet.
Then sleep took me far beyond
all knowledge of men and snow.

The kids were visiting Hoth, the
ice planet, then Dagoba’s swamp, and Endor’s
jungles, but I was seeking Lethe and oblivion.

In the dark heart
of the blinding light
I tried to pray
to make an offering
an oblation:
Obliterate me! I begged,
or if you will not let
this cup of pain pass
then may it do someone somewhere
some good.

God, come to my assistance
Lord, make haste to help
Help me
O Lord, I am in straits
they blaze like a fire,
the thorns.
I am pierced.
The nails are in my head
pounding pounding
the spear, too, like an
armored goddess put to flight,
an idol, toppled, but still
as she falls.
In your wounds hide me hide
everything the world and all its pains.

Too sick to read to listen to think
to do anything pleasurable, I had
entered the Land of Pain.

Through the Gate of Ivory
or was it Horn?
I sojourned, a silver branch
in my mind piercing
my temple with a thousand
silver thorns.

And outside no sword but the
impossible hush of fine flakes
and the occasional shovel or plow.
But I didn’t hear them then, I was lost
in the underland of the almost-dead.

And then at three o’clock,
the hour of mercy,
I awoke and the crown
of thorns was gone.
The pain lifted, the
room and my feet finally warm.

I finished the Coke that my
nausea wouldn’t let me drink before.
I threw open the curtains to
catch the last hour of falling light.
And there my books, my thoughts, my laptop, ready
to be accepted once more.

Soup almost ready, the drain
And Bella ready to be bathed
the housework still undone the laundry
So suddenly the storm had
passed, all fight gone.

But the clouds didn’t know
and kept dropping the snow
on snow on snow on snow
the world filled up again
with newness and white.

And then
came the night.

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  • This is stirringly beautiful. Your pain is so palpable I found myself wincing. And I love the structure of the “Soup was ready” stanza–especially

    “the homework still undone the laundry

    perfectly mirroring the way those tasks pile up and bump into each other, and it feels like there’s no demarcation between all the chores that must be done–so apt.

  • Indeed, it is lovely. Along with the wonder of how words can transform a migraine in a snowstorm to a thing of beauty, just as the act of Offering transforms suffering into something both eternal and valuable. As Lissa said your pain is so palpable – I found myself thinking of labor.

    • Thank you. It is a bit like labor, not that i’ve ever gone all the way through that, but I’ve had long enough labors and c-sections are their own kind of travail. I like what you say about both poetry and offering are kinds of transformations.

  • I just realized that both of my snow allusions in the first stanza are to Christmas pieces, of a sort: Joyce’s The Dead and Rosetti’s In the Bleak Midwinter. So I have a little Christmas theme of a sort.

    Also that there are thorns and spears in that final paragraph of The Dead that I’d forgotten. Oh I love it when my subconscious does that.

    “Yes, the newspapers were right: snow was general all over Ireland. It was falling softly upon the Bog of Allen and, further westwards, softly falling into the dark mutinous Shannon waves. It was falling too upon every part of the lonely churchyard where Michael Furey lay buried. It lay thickly drifted on the crooked crosses and headstones, on the spears of the little gate, on the barren thorns. His soul swooned slowly as he heard the snow falling faintly through the universe and faintly falling, like the descent of their last end, upon all the living and the dead.”

    Also, Joyce… I’d never noticed that trio of nouns– crosses, spears, thorns– before.

  • Oh, Melanie, I could feel that migraine as I read. I love how you captured both the agonizing pain and the way illness can just lift, so seemingly suddenly, and then we are faced with everything we blocked out while we were in the land of pain, and how that can feel both good and bad. 🙂