Even the sky here in Connecticut has it, That wry look of accomplished conspiracy, The look of those who've gotten away With a petty but regular white collar crime. When I pick up my shirts at the laundry, A black woman, putting down her Daily News, Wonders why and how much longer our luck Will hold. "Months now and no kiss of the witch." The whole state overcast with such particulars. For Emerson, a century ago and farther north, Where the country has an ode's jagged edges, It was "frolic architecture." Frozen blue- Print of extravagance, shapes of a shared life Left knee-deep in transcendental drifts: The isolate forms of snow are its hardest fact. Down here, the plain tercets of provision do, Their picket snow-fence peeling, gritty, Holding nothing back, nothing in, nothing at all. Down here, we've come to prefer the raw material Of everyday and this year have kept an eye On it, shriveling but still recognizable-- A sight that disappoints even as it adds A clearing second guess to winter. It's As if, in the third year of a "relocation" To a promising notch way out on the Sunbelt, You've grown used to the prefab housing, The quick turnover in neighbors, the constant Smell of factory smoke--like Plato's cave, You sometimes think--and the stumpy trees That summer slighted and winter just ignores, And all the snow that never falls is now Back home and mixed up with other piercing Memories of childhood days you were kept in With a Negro schoolmate, of later storms Through which you drove and drove for hours Without ever seeing where you were going. Or as if you've cheated on a cold sickly wife. Not in some overheated turnpike motel room With an old flame, herself the mother of two, Who looks steamy in summer-weight slacks And a parrot-green pullover. Not her. Not anyone. But every day after lunch You go off by yourself, deep in a brown study, Not doing much of anything for an hour or two, Just staring out the window, or at a patch On the wall where a picture had hung for ages, A woman with planets in her hair, the gravity Of perfection in her features--oh! her hair The lengthening shadow of the galaxy's sweep. As a young man you used to stand outside On warm nights and watch her through the trees. You remember how she disappeared in winter, Obscured by snow that fell blindly on the heart, On the house, on a world of possibilities.
A Winter Without Snow
J. D. McClatchy, 1945