Sunday, June 13, 2010

A Sunday Poem - Think January

I brought this poem to my Community of Poetry Readers (COP'Rs) this afternoon. Each month we read a book of poems and come together to talk about them -- but we also (and this is my favorite part) also bring single poems to share. I love how this poem deals with its subject -- not Christmastime snow, not virginal snow, but the actual wet stuff. The linkage between the beauty of "snow is deep in blue shadow" or "wind sculpts cornices" is offset by the absolute danger of snow "recite the cycles of thaw and freeze" or "reconsider your gear." The speaker understands snow on so many levels: actual, lyrical, philosophical. My favorite line is: "Snow is the wordless mind."

I've taught this poem as a catalogue poem - a list poem that moves  beyond the typical use of the form. I also hear an under current of Elizabeth Bishop's "think of the long trip home" from Questions of Travel. I'm so excited when I find poems like this -- ones that blow my mind -- by poets I've never heard of. It gives me great pleasure to share this poem here with you.


Checklist for a Trek in New Snow

1.  Snow is never the same.
Memorize its lore late into a winter evening.

2.  Snow is deep in blue shadow;
then, all at once in flame, sunslant in your eyes;
glassy on the Gunsight overlook.

3.  Recite the cycles of thaw and freeze,
new snow on the old packed Northside base
just waiting to slide.

4.  Look both ways, crossing the Sisters cirque;
listen for whoomphs underfoot as you traverse
that falling slope under Cinder Top.

5.  Consider falling/rising ticks
of mercury, how wind sculpts cornices.

6.  Analyze every aspect and degree of slope.
Snow is never the same.

7.  Reconsider your gear. Did you pack
probes and beacons, hot coffee?

8.  Snow is the wordless mind,
a wild creature with pale eyes. Snow
is never the same.

9.  Think of home with its white sheets,
where you’ll sleep deeply in dreams
of the cold bride, Avalanche.

Taylor Graham
Umbrella Journal

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