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. Works and Days






Teaching Amy to drive in the snow

How can I tell her, amid spinning tires
and a streaked windshield? How can I part
her furious gaze to say,
you’ve got it all wrong, honey.
Snow has no teeth,
it’s a feather
                      fanning an almighty love for us:

each flake tuned to awaken
thoughts of buried flowerbeds and dusty bottles
stashed in cellars; each flake a passion
perfected in echoing,
slug the gold dust of your days
all this day
. . .

Amy clicks off the music. She can’t think,
it’s fogging up her ears, too loud,
too low, too vibrant, too dull,
our soundtrack’s settled:
                                            tires chawing snow
under mammoth swipes of wipers wheedling a view.

Not bad. Houses unfold
                                           every third stroke; some
spout smoke. I count twelve footprints
as snow floats and extends into the everywhere
waiting to freeze or to melt, ready to be
packed into balls, backstroked into angels, rolled and hoisted
into men. Ready for the ridiculous—a carrot for a nose—
and the sublime—charcoal for eyes. I upend the heat vent,
count three children; try to remember their eyes,
the eyes of my childhood buddies, what it meant
to strike first into the
                                     giddy unknown on a snowday.

Amy’s quiet, too quiet, how long has this gone on? I tell her
downshift before the turn for better traction,
press the heater, then bring it to her neck.
                                                                           Buried world,
pray for me, that I never leave my life
                                                                  in a place where I can’t find it.

Stephen Valentine '98


Stephen Valentine teaches English at the Montclair Kimberley Academy in Montclair, New Jersey.


Editor’s Note: For BCM’s 2003 Word Play poetry contest, the topic was open, as were length and style. However, 10 of the following 13 words had to appear in the poem: visceral, never, mammoth, passion, giddy, music, almighty, furious, ridiculous, vibrant, uncanny, nefarious, strike. Nearly 140 poems were submitted, including 23 from the senior poetry class of Simsbury (Connecticut) High School, where Donna Cannon ’92 is the guidance counselor. The format for the contest was inspired by a classroom exercise in Professor Suzanne Matson’s “Introduction to Creative Writing” course.


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