Anne Waldman's SANCTUARY, Marc Zegans' THE SNOW DEAD
We peer into history, as we stare
Below the root line. Looking up
Is more complex, a tracing of past
And a hurtling expansion
But in the ice all is dead, purified
Crystalline, and yet blue like life.
The offerings are left on the surface
Testamentary evidence of the killing.
The bodies in ice were never offered
Merely preserved, accidents in waiting.
On the surface, there is no recovery.
The snow dead decay more slowly
The flies do not swarm. We watch.
At distance, they appear as black marks
The work of a spare calligrapher
Who enlivens the field by its small rupture.
Gradient enters as we approach
First tone, then hue, then texture
Finally wetness. We see the slicked blood
The glistening hair by the wound.
The seeping of fluids draws raptors.
A fox lies on fresh snow.
Its neck broke, slight steam
Exiting its once clever mouth.
Before I knew how to make snow angels
There was the corpse on the bowed lawn
Arms thrown wide, palms up, fingers spread
Shoed toes pointed toward the sidewalk.
When the first snow came
The uncut grass poked up
Leaving small circles
Around stiffened stems
Taking season as aberration.
“The souls speak louder
In the graveyard
Under winter snow,”
She said, leaving
I can’t tell you anything.
I missed the opportunity.
My bones tell no tales.
The snow heaves over
My recent-filled grave.
In spring it will sink
We take the frozen rictus
As a grin, as if there was
A secret, zygomatic joke
Less than cosmic, merely
Private, as if, in the life
Cut short at the moment
Of death, wry truth is given.
It is a lie we tell ourselves.
She was a pin-up model
In World War II, known
To millions in glossies
Then forgotten, neglected
Living still into her 80s
Alone in a weathered house
Above Route 2, attic filled
With curling stills, dried ink
And bushels of love letters
The smell of dark wool tweed
Over dark wool suits
Black shoes not meant for snow
Leather gloves that will pinch
And stain when touched by salt.
I would walk though the woods
Scavenging fallen branches,
The leaf stripped deadwood,
Cut it, stack it and leave it to dry.
I could tell by feel how long it
Had rested in the snow, and why.
“Don’t be fooled,” he said
“Many of the snow dead
Have life in them yet.
Some are simply resting
Others hiding in winter
Most don’t know
Warmth a memory lost.”
Streetlights and silence in this cold
Place lit by candles, convenience store
Chocolate donuts and well-aged wine
Our only food, as we sit on the floor
Staring out at the snow-cleaned street.
It’s four AM. We are the only two people
Alive. You have no power, nor I
But there is electricity between us.