Monday, June 11, 2007

The First Snow of the Year

The old man, listening to the careful
Steps of his old wife as she came,
Up, up, so slowly, then her slippered
Progress down the long hall to their door--

Outside the wind, wilder suddenly,
Whirled the first snow of the year; danced
Round and round with it, coming closer
And closer, peppering the panes; now here she was--

Said "Ah, my dear, remember?" But his tray
Took all of her attention, having to hold it
Level. "Ah, my dear, don't you remember?"
"What?" "That time we walked in the white woods."

She handed him his napkin; felt the glass
to make sure the milk in it was warm;
Sat down; got up again; brought comb and brush
To tidy his top hair: "Yes, I remember."

He wondered if she saw now what he did.
Possibly not. An afternoon so windless,
The huge flakes rustled upon each other,
Filling the woods, the world, with cold, cold--

They shivered, having a long way to go,
And then their mittens touched; and touched again;
Their eyes, trying not to meet, did meet;
They stopped, and in the cold held out their arms.

Till she came into his: awkwardly,
as girl to boy that never kissed before.
The woods, the darkening world, so cold, so cold,
While these two burned together. He remembered,

And wondered if she did, how like a sting,
A hidden heat it was; while there they stood
And trembled, and the snow made statues of them.
"Ah, me dear, remember?" "Yes, I do."

She rocked and thought: he wants me to say something
But we said nothing then. The main thing is,
I'm with him still; he still calls me and I come.
But slowly. Time makes sluggards of us all.

"Yes, I do remember." The wild wind
Was louder, but a sweetness in her speaking
Stung him, and he heard. While round and round
The first snow of the year danced on the lawn.

Mark Van Doren 1894 – 1972

from The Crystal Image, ed. by Paul Janeczko

No comments: