It’s been an oddly snowless winter in the Berkshires this year. The storm that is barreling up the coast will bypass us for the most part. All remains quiet, the ground a patchwork of tired brown and white. But winter is a state of mind as much as anything, a season of inwardness and contemplation. And so I woke this morning, thinking of this poem by the prolific and versatile American poet William Jay Smith who died this past year at the age of 97.
by William Jay Smith, 1918 – 2015
All night the wind swept over the house
And through our dream
Swirling the snow up through the pines,
Ruffling the white, ice-capped clapboards,
Rattling the windows,
Rustling around and below our bed
So that we rode
Over wild water
In a white ship breasting the waves.
We rode through the night
On green, marbled
Water, and, half-waking, watched
The white, eroded peaks of icebergs
Sail past our windows;
Rode out the night in that north country,
And awoke, the house buried in snow,
Perched on a
Chill promontory, a
In the mouth of the cold valley,
Its white tongue looped frozen around us,
The trunks of tall birches
Revealing the rib cage of a whale
Stranded by a still stream;
And saw, through the motionless baleen of their branches,
As if through time,
Light that shone
On a landscape of ivory,
A harbor of bone.
Thank you for sharing this Liza, what an exquisite poem.
Best love, your sister Kate
Thanks! Great poem.
Thanks, Phyllis. So glad your little family is back home, safe and sound!
Lovely to read as I watch this gorgeous blizzard raging outside my city window.
Thanks, Leslie. I hope we get a couple of flakes, at least!
So perfect to read on this snowy day in NYC, but wish I had pine trees near for the
snow to swirl through! But I can imagine it so well from past years in other places.
Perfect poem. Many thanks.
So lovely as we sit here snowbound in Astoria.
Thanks, Irena — I love the word “snowbound”!
A lovely, evocative rendering of how it felt last night, listening to the howling wind on the UWS! And loving the unusual wonder of it. Thanks, as always, Liza.
Yes — and I particularly love the magical transformation of “The trunks of tall birches/Revealing the rib cage of a whale”
Beautiful poem, it really captures how this storm felt, even in NC where it wasn’t nearly so dramatic and intense! I hope you get some snow this season, I love the peace and quiet as the snow falls. There is nothing like it! Is there? Belated happy new year to you, dear cousin!
Thanks, dear cousin! Wishing you and Tom a happy (belated) new year, too.
Loved the poem and the reflection. “Snowbound” by John Greenleaf Whittier is another great poem about snow. It’s a little long but worth the read. Thanks for reminding me of the poems beautiful imagery and sound.