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Spring Thaw in South Hadley

Old snows locked under glass
by last night’s ice storm left
curatorial Winter, in
whose hands alone we’d hope
to find the keys,
jangling them in the trees—.

not merely in these pine
needles by the fistful
gloved in crystal, but,
from their boughs, the self-
invented digits of
icicles addressed

(in a manner reminiscent
of the insubstantial
finger of a sundial)
less to a point in space
than effectively to Time,
the frozen moment.

By noon, the ice as thin
as an eggshell veined to show
life seeping yellow,
one’s boots sink in
with a snap; the sap
underrunning everything

may be nothing but water, yet
there’s a sacramental
joy in how, converting
to its liquid state,
it’s anything but gentle.
A crash from Abbey Chapel—

who cut the string
that sent the white sheets falling?
Nothing but the long
scissors of the sun
unwraps such thunder. Even
a modest A-frame

in a muffled instant sheds
its wrinkling roofs of snow:
black butterfly below.
As if to make
one more clean break above,
the sky—seconds ago

one continent of cloud—
follows the drift of Spring,
splits and refits like Ming
porcelain. The plate
tectonics alternate:
white and blue, blue and white.

–Mary Jo Salter

This poem is a worthy paen to the power of weather systems, appropriately posted right before I head back to the warmer clime of San Francisco for a few days. I’m hungry for that sound of spring breaking through that I hear, crystalline, in this poem. The éclat of the changing from winter to warmth.

I am also moved by many of Salter’s phrases, like “curatorial Winter,” “a sacramental/joy in how, converting/to its liquid state,/it’s anything but gentle,” “Nothing but the long/scissors of the sun/unwraps such thunder.”

(Salter and her poetry resurfaced for me after reading a review of her latest volume, A Phone Call to the Future, in the New York Times Book Review on Sunday. An excerpt of that review is posted on Slow Painting.)

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