Issue > Poetry
Richard Schiffman

Richard Schiffman

Richard Schiffman is the author of two biographies. His poems have appeared in a variety of publications including Alaska Quarterly Review, North American Review and the New York Times. He is currently working on the manuscript for his first book of poetry.

The Snow Itself

Sometimes a willow flailing in winter
winds scribes the snow with its long, tapered
yellow fingernails. Then much later on
somebody passes by and tries to read
the scrawl. Somebody else calls him a fool,
says that the wind has got nothing
to say to the winter, and the winter
is not listening. Moreover, the willow was just
doodling, killing time, waiting for the spring.
And the heart cannot decipher
what it writes. And it is always writing.
And we need not read anything into it.
For it is only what the cold breath of the wind
has made it write.

Furthermore, the sun will soon melt the snow,
and all that was traced upon it, and the spring
will green the branch, and nothing
will remain of what the wind once whispered
to the branch, or the branch to the snow.
And the heart will stay fickle forever
blowing wherever it blows.

Still, it would be wrong
to conclude that the winds said nothing,
or that what they did say was empty,
because we cannot read it,
and cannot understand what we do read.
As the mind cannot comprehend the heart.
As night remains ignorant of the day.

Everything writes upon everything else
in a language known only to itself.
And everyone strives to read
what the others have written.
And nobody can do it.

Yet, for today, it is enough to be
this untrammeled brightness.
Not the wind, not the wind-whipped branch,
not what is written by the branch,
nor the knower, nor the unknower of that.
Not the heart, not the mind.

But the snow itself—
patient, spread everywhere,
this white and endlessly
inscribed astonishment.

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