The Nature of Snow

By Caroline Misener

For Sharon: November 13, 1981

The wind bore through the cloth of my coat,

Casting glass missiles through its scant armour,

But such is the nature of snow.

It was a hand-me-down from my mother

Who had lost weight and gloated

That her clothes didn’t fit her anymore,

But I was just plump enough to don it,

And besides, I had nothing warmer to wear.


The snow gathered in piles of white plush

Against my eyes and cheekbones and nose,

Soaked my hat and we dipped our heads

Into the gusts; the snow glazing your

Curly black hair like sugared lace.


No use, we said, to wait

For the bus, we could easily walk

The distance; it would be faster and easier

To slog along the crusty sidewalks

And it would spare us the ordeal

Of the surly driver with his cocked back cap

As he struggled with the wheel, and the reek

Of snow-soaked bodies, weary

From the day’s work and the grey saline slush

That seeped through the cracks in our boots

As it melted into the grooves of the rubber mats.


No, we said, we’d rather walk;

We’d make much better time

Than the humpbacked cars caught in drifts

That had slid across the laneways and intersections,

Their windows dusky from fog-blasted heat

And the air inside them dry and pungent.


I would have preferred the whitewashed ruin

Of the afternoon than what awaited me at home.

I preferred your warm companionship, discussing

Books in the aluminum bus shelter, than to

The loathsome drunk splayed on the couch at home,

Waking just often enough to tell me

What I was doing wrong, to tell me

How I ruined his life the day he married my mom.

But it was he, who’d ruined my life,

Plucking me like an orchid from

My garden of familiars.


How I loathed his drinking, dunking

His bland soul in a bottle of glitters

He kept hidden under his pillow,

Believing we’d never know,

While outside the snow beat and bunched

In the corners of his windows.


And we, Sharon, were caught

In that bubble of whiteness.

I thought if I died that day

It would quiet the sky.

But no such luck, with you, Sharon

A stranger and a friend.


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