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The snow this morning falls on brook and rush
In great flakes wending slantwise without purpose,
The sky above a wakening tent of grey.
So does my daughter wake, and say she’s sad.
For, sorrow sometimes strikes us with its bolt,
But mostly is a kind of atmosphere.
It doesn’t enter us. We enter it,
And ride on listless air drafts like the snow.
We feel with gradual ache what comes to seem
The needle sunk in its barometer.

How many live within it till the end?
The Chippewa boy who cast about St. Ignace,
Neglected, beaten, scarred, imprisoned, ever
In search of one who’d love him first of all;
The girl who stands undressed before the mirror
And, wanting only to be beautiful,
Pins up a gown against her curving shoulders,
But turns aside, incapable of looking;
And you, who took yourself away from us
These ten years since, dying with the TV on.

Poor falling creatures in the quiet land,
Gentle and broken things, and needy things,
Who see ice filming on the deeper waters,
Who see the blackened boughs begin to lighten,
We cannot know the air through which you move.
We try out words of wisdom and give up.
How fine it would be, could we just embrace
And trust the body’s solid warmth to speak.
But some snow clings upon the withered rushes
And some descends on water and is gone.

—James Matthew Wilson

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