The BOOKPRESS December 1998

Snow Before Winter

Peggy Billings

Snow Before Winter

Who would have expected
    snow so soon?
The fields are lost;
So is the wheelbarrow,
    left leaning against the shed.
Gutters not yet emptied of leaves,
    sag; and
the empty feeder swings
    in an aimless arc.

The snow shovel is buried
    behind rakes and digging forks.
Only the ice salt with a plastic spoon
    is in its place on the porch.
In a jumble of boots and gloves and caps,
    we go out to excavate the car.
Downtown in Ithaca, the trees in DeWitt Park
    still have their leaves;
yellow, red, even green, but white-trimmed now,
    a wild mix of dress to rival ours.

I go on my own,
    to wander in and out of shops.
Emerging from one, I feel lost
    in the cold, fading light.
It is only three p.m., but
    the world is turned on edge.
Sidewalks slant, signs waver and blur.
    I turn back toward the Library.
Though no cars are coming, I wait
    for the light at Cayuga and Buffalo.

Is this how astronauts felt
    leaving earth for the moon?
Did the first sea-creature to flop up on land
    gasp for breath like this?
What Iím really asking is if I will survive
    the Darwinian leap of another Ithaca winter.
Or did I grow one set of gills too many
    in Mississippiís humid heat,
which though vestigial, will always
    ache in arctic air?

                    ó Peggy Billings

Peggy Billings is a poet living near Trumansburg, NY.

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