Monday, January 23, 2012

Tuesday Poem--First Snow

Wafers of paint are flaking from the frescoed clouds in the Duomo of the sky.

Shredded angel feathers drift down in the foreground, on swift brush strokes 

of houses, on the smudge of a greyhound tugging its master, a charcoal bruise,

into the wind. Chimneys’ floating ivory puffs above the rooftrees disappear, 

cottages dotted with scattered cadmium, a parody of the last of the light. 

Branches clot with gesso, hedges heavily daubed with pearls. A tinker’s cart 

trundles through the town, its silent wheel tracks whitewashing the road.

Who are these standing behind on the terrazzo, dressed in mosaics of gold?

A wedding party? Popes or patrons of the arts? Slowly their tesserae go out

like votive lamps. Radiant apostles at either pillar, their faith faltering, turn 

to statuary, immured in thick impasto. Beyond the archways’ salted brickwork, 

the sea’s cobalt is icing over. The fleck of a lobster boat draws the horizon line. 

Inside the cabin a child studies the frost flowers etched on the glass. Intently,

 her warm finger pressing down, she writes her initials. So the picture is signed.


  1. Your images feel like the snow that perhaps ought to have fallen before Christmas, illuminating the transformational magic we hope for. I know my goosebumps, however unprofessional, measure a true response to the art we are and by which we are surrounded. xo

  2. "The fleck of a lobster boat" is just a wonderful phrase. And the image is complicit in your line-making, your world-writing; as is every object in your purview: all strokes of one hand or another. A very beautiful hand-made world, it is. Though a cold one, a winter one.

    Do I hear Matthew Arnold correctly here?

    As some rich woman, on a winter's morn, / Eyes through her silken curtains the poor drudge / Who with numb blacken'd fingers makes her fire -- / At cock-crow, on a starlit winter's morn, / When the frost flowers the whiten'd window-panes -- / And wonders how she lives, and what the thoughts / Of that poor drudge may be...

  3. Melissa, your poetry is so poignant in its visual-ness. There is such nostalgia to this piece - the final two lines are truly magical.

  4. Dear Marylinn, thank you graciously for the goosebumps, a genuine response to what we call art. I'm glad you found the snow magical and transformative; too bad it didn't come before Christmas--it should have, shouldn't it? xo

  5. Dear Zachary, thank you for your extravagant compliments about my 'hand-made world.' The poem seemed all of a piece when it came. I've never read the Matthew Arnold poem, and while to my mind it doesn't correspond to the work I wrote, except for the frost flowers, it is very beautiful, and I thank you for posting it here.

  6. Dear Elizabeth, you are so faithful, I'm so very glad to always see your name in my Comments. And you are a very sensitive reader, which I appreciate tremendously. Thank you for being moved by the poem, and finding the last two line 'truly magical.'

  7. Melissa, as always I enjoy the richness of your poetry, the wealth of images, almost always leading us to some subtle or startling twist at the end. "So the picture is signed."

  8. Thank you, Helen. The ending came from the angels; I wasn't expecting it myself.

  9. melissa, belatedly I straggle up...
    although i must say that this poem seems to reflect much of what we were emailing about in our off-topic discussion of artwork and collage, the color words placed just so like fragile scraps of tissue paper.
    all snow should be first snow.

  10. Yes, Susan, it is germane to our discussion--I couldn't sleep after writing this. And you're right--all snow should be the first snow. xo

  11. Melissa- I shouldn't write so late because I simply can't transcribe to print what froths in the mind. This is dreamy beautiful. It makes me cry. And smile. (As first snow often does.) Each image, so pure and thoughtful. Who else, but you, Melissa, would see snow as, to paraphrase, wafers of paint that flake from frescoed clouds?
    And "[...]on the smudge of a greyhound tugging its master, [...]"--ah! So delicate, so real.
    Thank you, thank you! I'll sleep well tonight. :)

  12. Dear Jayne, I'm delighted that you loved this poem--what poet wouldn't like to hear that something she'd written was 'dreamy beautiful'? Thank you for your generous, thoughtful remarks. Today was a day I could use them! xo