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Stanzas on the snowfall.

"Look! It has blue eyes!"


At that time the boy spoke out loud, "O mother, May I go out now to play in the garden?" And the mother said: "Yes, dear. But you must take care. In the garden are things that never were, And also things that are no longer, alive. And things destined to live, that are not yet Alive even to this day. And all the memories Of each of us, human and inhuman. But take greatest Care for the things that are coming to be And passing away. They are fatal to the mind In any case (said the mother), I think it's Going to snow." -And then the boy went out To play in the garden. And it was so....


That morning the aeroplanes sailed against The sky, their klaxons sounding. And the whole weight Of the world rested, like a single word, On the heel of the hand that played the horn Of the wind. The philosophic oak had considered The garden since 1932-the year I was born: "There are still songs to be sung," he began. "But master Orpheus is not the singer. Nor yet Is Philomele--infanticide nightingale-- Her melody on the thorned nest--the song." "Then, who is a master in America?" I ask. "Who has blue eyes?" the oak replies. "The greatest Poet is a hammer on the iron rail


Of the universe!" A cloud came up. It was Going to snow for the last time, October 1939. Out of the cloud fell down an infant Snowflake. Though but new born, it spoke to me (Voice of another kind!): "My name is destiny. --Thus speech will follow after other speech To the human end. The sky darkens. The horn Of the wind is heard. Over the crib of the new Born word the oak tree utters its prophecy In many voices confusedly. And from afar Universe resounds like a hammered rail. --All that day the silent snows poured down secrecy, The poet's burden, on the cooling garden.


How to live on? The dead things, and the living Thing, turn as they fall in the autumn garden. The plumed seed, the prophetic leaf torn from Oak, and the last worm turning on the air, Turn also in mind. But the coldest elements, The light in wire and the driven snows, are hurled Level with our flesh to their destination In the heart from the beginning of the world! --What did the infant snowflake feel in its cloud, Falling and rising above America, Among the first of its kind on a dark day At the beginning of a long winter of snow? It was only "getting to know" its kind;


It had no knowledge of our inverted trees, Or the cooling ashes of our autumn gardens; Nor had it looked upon our earth--which is Its sky and destiny--nor on our sky, The material body whence it came By a sheer inclination of the elements. Now Orpheus at his instrument has stopped His breath. Something new has startled him. "So Beautiful," he says. "Another voice! This is the onset of imagined snow." --Absorbed, now, in its work the moaning oak, From out the mysterious well of its dark root And the long labor of its "mighty heart,"


Gives warning of a greater art. Philomele, The nightingale, leaning upon her them, Looks up, rises from the limb of her lament And seats herself upon the throne of the weather. "A voice," she says, "from the next room over." Beneath her claw the orphan, on its bed Of sod, stares at the cloud from which it came. (No longer crystalline. It is now flame In the low light of the autumn storm.) It sees that the trees are not as they should be. It notes the left hand of the wind breaking oak leaves, one by one--between its index finger, Marked by a moon--like scar, and the sexual tool


Of the thumb. An odor streams upon the air. Perfume! Half sex, half rage of prophecy: Many, of course, will die below. "That said, The infant snowflake goes to bed at noon, And other snow comes down on the garden, Building secrecy until the crack of doom. It has blue eyes," we cried. "Look what is born October 22, 1939," the beginning of time.... --Now, in a room, at whatever distance from The beginning of time, my hands are laid Upon an instrument to make some music. The score is open, today the garden page; And there is silence in the heavens half an hour,


Silence I will always remember. (Age Changes nothing!) Silence of which to tell. Silence like the ease after a long tale, Ease of a mind that needs not farther go, A mind that is at rest, its road gone over, In the hour before dawn after a long Night of snow. -Now the pastoral is restored, As it was in the beginning of the garden: Pathless innocence; shadowless loves; Elemental hunger, the haunting of wolves. Upon my hands, my hands intending music, Other hands are laid from the next room over; Other hands, stopping the play without a word.


A left hand covers my left, and all its powers; Another right, my right, with the scarred finger, Covers over, in a mansion of numberless rooms, Each for the moment silent under the same snow: Thus, a greater solitude by its grace bestows Oh, the restraining hands!) upon the lesser Solitude a deeper tone. And then descends, Hand over hand without a word, the stair Of silence, one tone at a time, alone, To the beginning of time, October, 1939. --And there she is singing the elements, The snow hand playing the snow part: pathless Innocence, shadowless loves, elemental hunger,


And a distant hammer in the heart. Orpheus Stares at the snowfield, with nothing to say. Philomele, enthroned, is looking another way. The oak, never at a loss for words, speaks prophecy: "We have reached," he murmurs, "America of silence, Garden of light alone. And now a distant Hammer sounds on the iron rail of the heart, To find it true, or break it along the fault. In a birthroom far away the people shout, A master is born in America. Our voice. The fingers of its hands are white as snow: The left hand with all its powers; the right With the scarred finger. Its eyes are blue. Rejoice!'


Woe to the nation that awaits a prophecy Which has come true." --Insistently, therefore, The mind turns and returns on its own lines: "Inasmuch as I have seen the winter weather, And inasmuch as I have heard on a day The wind utter its single word, and inasmuch As I remember the mother's warning which foretold Another turning in the long afternoon of song And in another season pale hands from the next Room over stopped the play, and inasmuch as we Have fallen from a cloud--the first that day-- And lie diminishing on the cooling sod


And broken by the hoe, fallow ... ; therefore We are doomed to thought, until the greater poet Come, the one whom I saw flame (|at that time,' When I was young) and perish in the winter sun, The object of all song." --In the silence now, Of which I tell, the birthcries still resound Throughout America: " New orphan!" is still the call. "So beautiful!" "A cosmic scandal!" An unforgiveable divine surprise! "Of which The rumors are it will be fatal"--whispered Even by the oldest trees, such as the oak, Considered wise and capable of prophecy. So speech follows other speaking after all.


"O mother! Tell me. How should a man live?" --Far, far away the mother in her grave Forgets to turn. Nor does she raise her eyes. The aeroplanes sail against the sky in silence. No klaxon heard. The snow fills all the pathways Of the universe. There are no open roads Even among the stars. Imagined storms extend Their secrecy from the beginning of The world until the end. Subjected to the wind The snows descend upon the garden of the mind. (Now silent.) The orphan of the air appears And disappears in flames, saying his say As infants do: "My name is destiny."


And out of their haunting the wolves return, The shadowless loves: Now ancient forests murmur Within the walls of the garden. A distant Hammer on an iron rail expounds the romance Of innocence: the long delay of the sheltering Tree. And white hands have stopped the play forever. A voice of another kind is the fashion Of our destiny. Speak of it, householder, When you are sitting in your room, whether in company Or alone; and when you walk the public ways; And when you lie in bed and sigh: --the stories Of the snow, and of the greater poet, Master of secrecy, who has blue eyes.


And now the mother speaks to me out loud, Like the song of a hidden bird from above In the spring of the year, an omen of love: "Can you hear? Go out with a spade, and do the work. Plant very young trees of the slow-growing kind In the earth of your kingdom Endure the long Delay of the sheltering trees--until they crowd Into a shade. And then sit down in the land, Promised and made, and listen to the voice of the wind." --Thus, in my 60th year, a skater turned back, Across the thundering ice-roads of the Winter lakes He wandered over, urgent to tell (feeding his snow Hunger) how a snowflake fell in October.
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Author:Grossman, Alan
Publication:The American Poetry Review
Date:Jan 1, 1993
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