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Blizzard

Poem

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Birds hunting food,

flocks in the air, wheel

above the metal Dumpster.

Nothing there. Pigeons

plump in drifts. The woman

who stirs the Dumpster

abandons her bent cart.

A white veil ripples

across the buildings.

A snow plow, scrawny

as an old man's neck,

like a squawking chicken,

jerks its yellow eye

in the shrouded parking lot.

Main Street traffic stops.

Power lines sag.

Power goes out.

From the dark window,

flashing red lights,

sirens passing slow

through the diaphanous

scarves of blowing crystals.

The shudder of spumes,

sprays of fine ice

against the building.

It blows under the main door,

fills up the entrance

to the first step

to the first floor.

A long arm of snow stretches

along the basement hall,

along the basement apartments

where the retired women

living on Social Security

are sitting smoking

in front of their dark TVs.

Holding your breath,

you stand at the window.

The phone is dead.

Snow hisses against the glass.

You shiver and feel your way

in the dark. At last the matches.

You waver with lit candle

to the pit of your bed and

like a hibernating animal,

unconscious, crawl in to safety.

Mindless, you sleep as you

did on your mother's breast.

Until the sun streams in

as through a cathedral window,

as if you are blessed after a flogging.

Not a bird in sight, not a sound.

Not a Thai has come out.

Their blinds pulled down,

thick snow on their metal steps,

mounded without tracks.

Their timed lives,

day shift and night shift,

their exchange of beds,

some leaving, some entering,

interrupted.

Only imagined sacks of rice

behind the now darkened window,

the window around the corner

in the Thai Recreation Restaurant

and Pool Hall. Only silence

like a glitch, like a pause

in abnormal breathing;

and the large, comfortable

casket of the snow.

Ruth Stone

"Blizzard" appears in In The Dark,

Coppercanyon Press, 2004

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