Snowfall, Route 81, December

Alexander Chertok

Even the cows looked stunned

after the first snowfall, stepping

to small islands of grass 

     as if the snow could detonate.


How could it bruise the earth like this,

beauty touching beauty, layers of it, and still 

     the ground looked like a battlefield,

blotches of snow like white bodies that died

too suddenly to bleed.


We drove on, an obnoxiously large billboard

selling cedar chests and Dutch quilts,

as if the weather weren’t reminder enough,

as if any passerby would be stung that day

with the urge to touch something 



There is a quiet dignity in everything,

my mother said one winter - her way

of justifying her own untapped triumphs -

when the snow was so thick on trees

it muted the block, the wind paddling

snowflakes under street lamps. 

     The snow is like shattered porcelain,

she would say during every storm,

the undulating flames of the fireplace

taking her over, her eyes nebulous.


     I tried to find dignity

in this methodical collapse

of bodies fixed to the ground,

the scarred landscape; to find porcelain 

the snow, or ivory, something resplendent.


I opened the car window to find out if snowflakes

burst upon hitting the land like porcelain figurines,

a wind brushing them off the mantle

one by one, the shattering, the scream:

in the car I almost heard the dying hearth 

of autumn extinguishing.