Today's poem is by Vivian Shipley

If You Are in Manhattan after the First Snow

Wait for the moon to sculpt the fire hydrant into a statue of frost,
Everyone will be marooned; everything will appear to have

the same weight when covered. It's the regularity, the sameness,
the smoothness that does it. Any solid color will do: brown earth

under the woman shoveling in front of her house on 64th Street,
opposite Versace, black wool coating a man by Federal Hall,

white clouds embracing another walking on lower Broadway
near Chambers Street. Gloved hands mask his face. Snow makes

visable shapes you wouldn't ordinarily see. What could be a car
is parked in front of Trinity Church near Wall Street, but it might

be a tank with gun turrets removed, or an elephant kneeling for
a master to mount. Blinding you, rags of smoke will steam from

subway steps. Inhale, then open your mouth to catch snowflakes,
stars that freeze to beat on your tongue. If you pass trees, they

will bow, bent in prayer, shrubs will be shrouded pilgrims. There
is nothing to do. Learn to be wind as snow swirls. Drifts will rise

like bridesmaids, with the grace of symmetry in measured steps
two by two up the aisle. Molded as if by water sanding azur sea

glass, curves will have all edges worn. Sunk into a warm bath,
nothing will be hard or guttural like throaty Russian consonants.

You might show off more of your French, recall the color noir
to describe the pavement. A virtuoso, you could spout off

about modern art, compare the radiance of light, its harmony
to Robert Ryman's show at MOMA. Pulled from his hands

by the moon, big white canvas was cold, insistent, bleached
of stained life. Covered with paint or snow, sidewalks will have

no muck, no stench, gut of dog, or crevice for dropping of horse
to rot where goldenrod seeds might wedge. Flakes of snow,

milkweed floating like voices, parachute with nowhere to root.
Powdered over with snow, the skin of the earth is made up, pores

filled in like Garbo's face, forever smiling, forever mysterious.
You will never question it or need to find words to penetrate

such beauty, such perfection. Whether the cold silence of snow
is crisp or light as shredded sponge, your soles must press down

to leave an imprint. Leaving no trace of scent for a trail, you may
walk for days in the middle of emptied streets never shadowed,

only surrounded by snow that holds the seen and the unseen.
Take away color and there is only the beauty, shapes that might

be tin cans, the Post tied into plastic covered bales, a dog, black
garbage cans or a woman in a red plaid coat curled as if asleep.

Copyright © 2003 Vivian Shipley All rights reserved
from When There is No Shore
Word Press
Reprinted by Verse Daily® with permission

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