Three Poems by Russell Rowland

Lessons on Snow

We learned in class that white is all colors,
yet no rainbow today. We learned at weddings,
it is virgin pure (though they’d slept together);

in due ambivalence, yielded ourselves
to the advent condescending out of heaven,
its myriad doves, pentecostal,

no two the same—we heard that from parents,
who rest now where a snow quilt
tucks them in, along with other shrewd elders.

The little boy in me, and the little girl in you,
knew without being told that play
is the first joy, as well as the first joy to go.

The snow was our playmate—even school
was canceled for it. We went outside
booted, gloved, the only knowledge needed.

But here is no Eden. Our Town plows snow
out of the path of commuters. We
were advised of our duty, and handed shovels.

Stepping Carefully

Snow melted to water, water froze.
Some folk are bags of brittle bones, but all
who sortie watch their step. A fall
is quick, the landing hard: one might well
not get up again. Should I remain

upright, it is on the strength of years
spent stepping gingerly into certain homes:
dark parlors, mirrors turned
to the wall, family assembled in silence,
waiting—a misstep ruined everything.

If I stay on my feet all winter,
it can also be from scaling the high places
where ancestral spirits still dwell
with the Great Spirit, although those
who once brought offerings don’t return.

(I knew to remove my boots.)
With care I’ve trodden tractionless ice—
into old houses of many rooms,
locked doors, long hallways, grim faces
at the end. I sat where they told me.

By the Road

When air is cool as crystal to the touch,
and trees abandon chlorophyl for other hues,
tour busses come. Engines idle outside
restaurants before heading north, diesel-odorous.

Think about this, when you see all traffic bound
in one direction, entire carloads enroute:
what seduction do such hillsides have to offer;
what Siren song are these woods singing?

Indeed, what lures any prodigal from the routine
of dutiful service, fattening calves
for slaughter? It could be helpful to understand
the attraction—so wait by the roadside,

assess the excursion. But also, keep your eye
on the uncrowded return lane. Perhaps
somebody in a car that climbed Mt Washington
said simply, “I want to go home.”

Seven-time Pushcart Prize nominee Russell Rowland writes from New Hampshire’s Lakes Region, where he has judged high-school Poetry Out Loud competitions.  His work appears in “Except for Love: New England Poets Inspired by Donald Hall” (Encircle Publications), and “Covid Spring, Vol. 2” (Hobblebush Books). His latest poetry book, “Wooden Nutmegs,” is available from Encircle Publications.

No pets, just pet peeves.

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