February Poem

By Marilyn Zuckerman

(Photo © Judith Zimmerman ᔥ National Geographic Society)

Ages of Ice

February is the granite wall through which you cannot pass,
the crevasse, narrow, deep and dark,
down which you endlessly fall,
the silent street where footsteps in the snow
mark the paperboy’s passing.
It is the webbed feet of birds
imprinted like fossils on your neighbor’s white roof.
It is the glitter of ice on trees
hanging like prisms
clattering against each other in the wind.
It is the snuffle of a wolf thrusting its snout
against the tent where men wrapped in furs
lie dying in the Antarctic ice
only twelve miles from their goal.
It is the sound of ice floes calving and colliding
as the great sheets advance.
In the winking of a geologic eye
ages of ice come and go,
sliding towards you
and your fragile wooden house.
they leave their mark on the land,
wear mountains down to sand and sediment,
scatter boulders big as trucks across meadows
and mold great depressions,
which, filling with rain,
become lakes, rivers, streams,
and those small ponds called kettles.
When they retreat—
and they will—strings of atolls,
Caribbean islands,
the shores of the Pacific
will be under water once again.

·    ·    ·

News of the extreme cold weather in the Midwest and Northeast last month (a town in Minnesota hit 34 below), reminds me that I wrote this poem when I lived in Boston during one of these deep freeze events. It was during the famous Blizzard of ’78 and I remember snow reaching to the second floor windows of a Harvard dorm in Cambridge, of Massachusetts Avenue empty except for a lone cross-country skier now and then, the dangerous icicles hanging down from eaves like stalactites, of snow overspreading a major freeway as it enclosed the smaller cars, suffocating those in Volkswagen Bugs, and of the man outside my building who was lifted up and flung across the street like a sack of potatoes. And I remember, too, the shelters kept open for the homeless, the elderly, and those without heat. Later they had to bring in workers to help us dig out. Now, living in Seattle, when snow means skiing in the mountains or hopes for a white Christmas, I’d like to remind my neighbors that urban snow is not mountain pure. It turns filthy almost overnight, an eyesore that can last for months – and that this poem is also about climate change.


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6 thoughts on “February Poem

  1. I grew up in Minnesota, in the Twin Cities, so I know just what you are talking about! This poem rings so true that I am cold reading it, and I feel tired thinking about the snow shoveling. I also lived for several years in northern Minnesota in a little town called Ely — this poem easily evokes the 40 degree below zero days. Brrr. Thanks for your lovely words!

  2. This brings back memories of Chicago winters growing up. Snow ice melt a little, repeat. Layers of dirty snow and ice. Seemed like winter would never end! I’m so happy to live here.

  3. Pingback: February Poem - Marilyn Zuckerman Marilyn Zuckerman

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