FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Translating Snow

by ROBERT DAY

Three of us are gathered here in Bly, Kan., at the co-op, to talk about the snow. It has been coming down in thumb-sized wet flakes, but by afternoon the sky will be white with tiny dots, giving the impression we have lost our horizons. The ground is still warm, so the snow will melt into the pastures. If it gets thick enough — and it will — it will fill the shallow wells we have for our livestock and homes. Maybe even the creeks will run when spring comes.

“A million-dollar snow,” says one of the men. “If you count snow as cash on which we’ll earn interest next spring.”

“And a couple years beyond that,” says the second man, “if we didn’t have a debt to the drought.”

It amuses us to think of snow as money.

We take our gloves off the propane stove, put on our coats and head for the door. We are off to move hay, check stock tanks, get wood in for the stoves, and before night park the pickups pointing toward where we might go the next day. We don’t know it yet, but by morning we won’t be going anyplace soon: Some of us in the country will be a week digging out.

“‘It was snowing, and it was going to snow,’ ” I say as we step outside.

***

A man on a farm just outside of Bly is Steve Reuber. When the snow lets up, he gets into his 1962 John Deere 4010 with a front-end blade and heads toward Bly. The county can’t get down here yet, but Steve can, so he does. We are a four-dirt-street tic-tac-toe of a town. That plus the Oil Road that leads to the U.S. highway. Steve has been plowing our streets — and our driveways — for 20 years. Same tractor. Same Steve.

“He’s better than government,” is what we say.

This year he’ll take extra care to clear the streets all the way to the mailboxes, because otherwise our mailman, Gene Wurm, will have to get out of his car each time to make his delivery. Mr. Wurm is past 80 and we don’t want him to take a fall. Most of us out here are old, and we are mindful of each other that way: Quick to hurt, slow to heal.

***

“It was snowing
And it was going to snow.”

It’s a line from the poet Wallace Stevens. When I am not who I am in Bly, I am a teacher who knows about poets. The men here understand that and don’t hold it against me.

“It’s not something we’d say,” says the man who mentioned the million-dollar snow.

“I read ‘Snow-Bound,’ ” says the other. “In school.”

“The sun that brief December day
Rose cheerless over hills of gray,
And, darkly circled, gave at noon
A sadder light than waning moon.’ ”

“If you say so.”

“And this is Robert Frost,” I say:

“Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.’ ”

By now we are at our trucks.

“Frost isn’t talking to us either,” says the man who was taught Whittier. “We don’t have woods, and nothing ‘fills up’ except roads and draws with drifts.”

Gene Wurm goes by on the Oil Road heading to Bly.

“It is money and it is going to be money,” I say, looking around.

We are quiet for a moment. We all know the sound of snow in the wind, but you can’t name it.

“Better your other poetry for who we are,” says the first man.

I am thinking of drifts, of Steve Reuber, of the hand-pump wells we will be using the next few days because the power lines are down. No phones. No television. Wood smoke in the gray mornings. Snow as snow.

ROBERT DAY is the author of the novel “The Last Cattle Drive.” He teaches at Washington College in Chestertown, Md., and is a member of the Land Institute’s Prairie Writers Circle, in Salina, Kansas.

 

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
April 28, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Slandering Populism: a Chilling Media Habit
Andrew Levine
Why I Fear and Loathe Trump Even More Now Than On Election Day
Jeffrey St. Clair
Mountain of Tears: the Vanishing Glaciers of the Pacific Northwest
Philippe Marlière
The Neoliberal or the Fascist? What Should French Progressives Do?
Conn Hallinan
America’s New Nuclear Missile Endangers the World
Peter Linebaugh
Omnia Sunt Communia: May Day 2017
Vijay Prashad
Reckless in the White House
Brian Cloughley
Who Benefits From Prolonged Warfare?
Kathy Kelly
The Shame of Killing Innocent People
Ron Jacobs
Hate Speech as Free Speech: How Does That Work, Exactly?
Andre Vltchek
Middle Eastern Surgeon Speaks About “Ecology of War”
Matt Rubenstein
Which Witch Hunt? Liberal Disanalogies
Sami Awad - Yoav Litvin - Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb
Never Give Up: Nonviolent Civilian Resistance, Healing and Active Hope in the Holyland
Pete Dolack
Tribunal Finds Monsanto an Abuser of Human Rights and Environment
Christopher Ketcham
The Coyote Hunt
Mike Whitney
Putin’s New World Order
Ramzy Baroud
Palestinian, Jewish Voices Must Jointly Challenge Israel’s Past
Ralph Nader
Trump’s 100 Days of Rage and Rapacity
Harvey Wasserman
Marine Le Pen Is a Fascist—Not a ‘Right-Wing Populist,’ Which Is a Contradiction in Terms
William Hawes
World War Whatever
John Stanton
War With North Korea: No Joke
Jim Goodman
NAFTA Needs to be Replaced, Not Renegotiated
Murray Dobbin
What is the Antidote to Trumpism?
Louis Proyect
Left Power in an Age of Capitalist Decay
Medea Benjamin
Women Beware: Saudi Arabia Charged with Shaping Global Standards for Women’s Equality
Rev. William Alberts
Selling Spiritual Care
Peter Lee
Invasion of the Pretty People, Kamala Harris Edition
Cal Winslow
A Special Obscenity: “Guernica” Today
Binoy Kampmark
Turkey’s Kurdish Agenda
Guillermo R. Gil
The Senator Visits Río Piedras
Jeff Mackler
Mumia Abu-Jamal Fights for a New Trial and Freedom 
Cesar Chelala
The Responsibility of Rich Countries in Yemen’s Crisis
Leslie Watson Malachi
Women’s Health is on the Chopping Block, Again
Basav Sen
The Coal Industry is a Job Killer
Judith Bello
Rojava, a Popular Imperial Project
Robert Koehler
A Public Plan for Peace
Sam Pizzigati
The Insider Who Blew the Whistle on Corporate Greed
Nyla Ali Khan
There Has to be a Way Out of the Labyrinth
Michael J. Sainato
Trump Scales Back Antiquities Act, Which Helped to Create National Parks
Stu Harrison
Under Duterte, Filipino Youth Struggle for Real Change
Martin Billheimer
Balm for Goat’s Milk
Stephen Martin
Spooky Cookies and Algorithmic Steps Dystopian
Michael Doliner
Thank You Note
Charles R. Larson
Review: Gregor Hens’ “Nicotine”
David Yearsley
Handel’s Executioner
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail