First Snow – A Poem by Philip Hess

New York, Late Afternoon, Winter – Childe Hassam

A Poem by Philip Hess

For those who’ve never seen it
Except in ersatz forms and settings,
As hoarfrost scratched from a failing freezer,
Or sodden mounds at an airport
Like a travel hangover’s unyielding residue,
Or when tickling faces lifted smiling
To the night in a holiday production,
A light fury of frozen schmaltz.

No, snow is what you see first thing
After the deep dive, bobbing up
From the womb of dreams
Into dawn’s timid shapes,
When you’re most vulnerable,
Open to suggestion even:
That the world outside is fungible,
That color is only an oily liquid

Which can be siphoned away,
That grass and trees can throw on
A linen cloak of smoothest weave,
As close-fitting as any swaddle,
That what they said in school
About forms of matter is transitive,
How things can slip away when touched
By light, like desert manna in the sun.

About the Poet

Phil’s pseudonymous reviews of movies and other things appear occasionally at He lives in (to borrow a famous phrase from William Gass) “a small town fastened to a field in Indiana.”

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