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Winter Trilogy

ISSUE:  Winter 1960

Before Snow Flies

We must make haste if order is to be
in house and garden before winter sets
its iron restriction on the shivering tree;
before snow flies, before our stern regrets
pile into drifts impenetrable to plow,
we must assert some reasonable thought
upon the problem of adjusting. How
to suit this season’s unexampled Ought.
Leave it too late, and frost will signal us
some bitter morning on a window-pane,
scrawling in frigid white the tyrannous,
adamant ultimatum to abstain.
Or else? Or else the cold must kill.
Only by strict conformity to what we know
will we avoid the scintillating chill
that points its finger in advance of snow.

First Snow

Slowly, debating if it must, the snow
crawls from the lowering clouds to sit
for a bleak minute on the dried-up lawn.
Transient at first, the flakes of snow submit
slowly to permanence; their lines are drawn
along the furrows of the fall-ploughed field.
Then, in a frenzy, tossing from the air,
the cautious blizzard to abandon yields;
faster, hissing at wind, its white despair
gusts ever stronger as the deep drifts grow.


Our wintry minds enclose us tight as snow
that, drifted now across the hilltop road,
imprisons us among the things we know,
forbidding strangers and the episode
of transient pleasantry. Our winter ways,
stiff and immutable, are like a death
endured without a mourner’s mumbled phrase;
for now the frozen image of our breath
shocks us upon the stern and glittering air,
the very circulation of our blood
surprises us with pain; we must beware
the fickle warmth that thaws before it should.
Yet, even as we shiver through this icy season,
our hearts, subversive, turn toward memory:
there, like a bird upon a sun-warmed tree,
love sings and sings, beyond all reason.


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