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“First Snow”

First Snow
Outside frost clings like hunger on the panes. Inside,
warmed, it beads rain along the glass.
The radiatorhisses and steams. In the kitchen the bubble of voices.
My eyes gaze into my lids, hinged, waiting, closed.

I know, if I open my eyes, mother will know. She
will call out from the kitchen sounding annoyed. She
will run in circles to get me up.
I am not in a hurry. I lie face up eyelids shut.

I feel cold outside with my thoughts.
The snow will be white. Not the blue of frost white,
or the grey of tv snow white, just white.
At school we see pictures. Eskimos are real. I read a book.

I have two windows. One by the fireplace sees far
down to the street.
The other here by my head has the fire escape outside.
I know there is lots of snow there, but I don’t want to look.

I taste it like crème. It piles as furry on my tongue as on the steps outside.
Small drifts mound there resting.
If I open my eyes and look, it will be just like that, cold.

A train passes. It’s rumble shivers panes against the room, across the floor,
up bed, and through my back to my eyes tingling bright but blind,
because I won’t look!

I know train lights flash unasked across the room.
If I open my eyes the snow will be cold outside,
not here safe warm nuzzled by my thoughts.
But no lights flicker. The curtains are drawn against
the cold. The train’s lights fail against the curtains and
fall deep into the gathering lightness of the streets
below. At the corners of my ears I hear my sister in
the kitchen. I open my eyes. There is no train. There
is no snow. Only curtains shut and steam hiss. Above,
the ceiling greys to yellow kitchen light. Water
bubbles on a stove. I stand with eyes again shut tight
with dreams of falling snow.
Of a sudden sister pulls pajamas from me. Above my
head with arms and down again to shirt and pants and
socks and shoes. She knows what to do. Her fingers
climb up and down the buttons she says because then
she knows she got them all. She pauses and restarts at
the top she says because she knows it doesn’t matter
top or bottom way only that you get to the end done
right. Down to the bottom buttoned she leaves me in
the kitchen’s yellow light.
The light is working. Upon the tiles it yellows. Bare
across ceiling tops it yellows. Tracking hidden cracks
it yellows. It peeks into me softly I think. It warms my
eyes. It peels the grey of off white walls. It hides its
yellow in the steam breath rising from my coffeed
Linoleum floor says black and white. The light says
yellow gently. The fat curved frig says off off white.
The light sighs yellow softly. On table top I smile
with yellowed light.
Mother moves the kitchen, then there is food. She
blankets the walls when she laughs. She colors the air.
Today she is olive crème and rose. I feel her colors
inside warm as food. I stare at the milk in my sister’s
hand. It’s not white. Sister smiles knowing. The snow
outside, that will be white. I want to see it.
There is a window above the toilet behind the bowl. It
opens there below the cord over the seat between the
walls which squeeze from either side. From it we can
down the bricks of the alley to where the rats feed
below. Down there is snow. I don’t go look. I know it
is there. Outside in the street there will be more.
I can see the front door out from where I sit at the
table back close to the heat from the stove. I count the
4 locks. One you turn, one you unhook, one you slide
to open. The last lies against the door like a javelin at
rest against a wall.
If a monster pushed with all its strength against the
door the javelin would not break. The door would not
could not open. But there is no monster pushing at the
door now. Only the hallways to the snow outside
My mother is at the sink next to the door. The tub is to
her right porcelain and wide. It has claw feet. She
cannot do the dishes when someone takes a bath. The
tub is covered now and dishes sit. No one wants to
take a bath.
I walk past the tub and to the toilet room. Inside it is
dark the door up close behind me. Grey sky fills the
window top frame, brick walls wet red brown below.
There is no snow on the sill. I am glad. I do not want
to see it. I want it brushing on my skin, its wet dead
dripping from my hair as it must be. Against the alley
walls snow dust swirl whispers watching. A siren
sounds outside the walls.
In the kitchen I sit at the table close to the tub. A
roach walks across the floor. My sister brings my
coat. She puppets me. One arm in, other arm in, turn
around, buttons up or buttons down she does smiling.
My arms stick out like wings. I am a marshmallow fat
with cloth. She pulls me by glove strings. I hold the
lock bar tight. It’s cold seep iron sinks into my hands.
Its flat grey strength heavy. I cannot be moved. I am a
Sister mothers me aside and opens the door. The
hallway light is not working. We listen to nothing. I
go out and stand at the door across our door. There are
two here at the end of our hallway opposite each
other. The women inside are quiet.
A chicken clucks. Sister giggles. They have a goat
too. Its smell is easy to find in the hallway. They
bought it for milk but it is a boy. Their apartment is
too small for a goat. Even the chickens fight for space
in the people full rooms. We cannot play with the
When we are not listening mother says they are
whores. I look for them on the streets, inside
doorways, and on the roof whoring. They are not
there. I think they whore at night on the trains
speeding past my window cozy in their sleeper bunks.
I think they are whores too.
All is quiet. The hallway stretches down dark to the
grey light struggling in from the stairway, a silent
bulb naked overhead. The walls are tight. We squeeze
past our rooms in the blank dark hall way.