TONIGHT, as I fluff my pillow, getting ready for bed, I look out the window and feel the snow starting.
I cannot see it yet. It is somewhere in the black heavy cloud that is drawn down over several motionless miles of the horizon.
Pause Before Winter
Into this stillness nothing comes,
no ghost of last month's cindered autumns,
no petal from a vagrant rose,
no spark, no leaf that glows.
Into this silence only blue
is not decadent or taboo;
it wants no rushet spring in flood
and none of summer's blood.
A pause that anchors and enthralls
till from indigo a feather falls
and urgent on the earth is heard
Winter's first white word.
The day has been chill, but the air seems to be warming now, and the stiff dry leaves of the deciduous trees hang still, waiting for something - like snow. I sleep lightly for a few hours. When I awake, it is to eerie darkness. I think I hear talking outside. At first it sounds like conspirators marching along the walls below the windows. But I listen more closely, and it is not that at all: It is hard small ice pellets hitting the ground under the eaves, making low conversational mutters.
When I awake, in the middle of the night,
it is silence I discover! It feels white;
it feels warm, it feels high and deep,
soft as a blanket and as close as sleep.
For many hours, it has been coming on,
preparing its surprises, while I was gone
on some dream or other! When I stir
it curls around me, sleek and thick as fur!
And totally unexpected! for wind blew
loud and wild, most of the long night through,
rattling hinges, trying to undo
doors and windows. Now, near dawn, I know
that I have been locked in by the quiet snow!
But not for long! There is work to be done. Especially at this season. For we are farmers, in the heartland. We live on two sides of a road, near Zadie Creek, one foot, so to speak, in Missouri's lowland woods, the other among Iowa's rolling hills. My husband works in his machine shop and brings bales of hay in, in winter. Our daughter Dixie walks the dogs, cuddles the cats, and decorates the house for holidays. I farm my mind, feed the younger calves, and crop poems. This morning I will mount the snowba nks in high boots and a heavy coat, through a fog of flakes, and preceded by my pale and ghosty breath.
Cold Morning on the Farm
This morning my breath goes puffing
like a little engine, pulling me on
to the frozen pump and the freezing padlock,
over a snapping lawn.
I go to unfasten the morning with hatchet
and axe and tea kettle, steaming hot.
The cattle watch to see if the crib door
will open or not.
Tight are the hasps of the freeze, but winter
begins to crumble, begins to give.
My fork finds the hay, my bucket the water...
The farm starts to live!
Here in the country, exhibiting inevitable good sense, we learn to enjoy winter. There is mystery in the multitude of tracks showing up in the quilts of snow. Whose were they? Where did they go? I turn and try to follow....
If you take me altogether,
I am stippled on the weather,
walking white in world of white
as obscure as though in night.
I could go on endlessly...
You could not tell flake from me,
could not tell if I rushed past,
or a flurry, or a blast!
I am simply one design,
half of shadow, half of shine:
cameo? or intaglio?
a slight pattern in the snow...
A flurry of wind and I plunge back toward the house, leaving seed for birds, here and there, as I go. I see my husband and daughter are coming in from their chores. Dixie is emptying a canful of walnuts under our squirrel's favorite tree. My red-haired husband is stomping snow from his boots near our kitchen door. I think I shall say something to them when I go in - about what I'd like to do!
"Let us sit here by the window
as long ago...
let us listen to the wind blow,
watch the snow,
watch it as it swiftly courses
like a harried herd of horses,
wild and white,
weaving in and out and dashing,
with their long and thick manes flashing
at the sky;
hear the sound of their rough playing,
anxious and uncertain neighing
of the wind...!"