Snow Falling From Cedars I – Canadian Winter Photography and Poetry
These poems were written in 2012, during my second winter in Canada. The title refers to “Snow Falling on Cedars”, the 1994 novel by David Guterson. Inspiration came from “Thirteen Ways of looking at a Blackbird” and “The Snow Man” from the poetry collection Harmonium, by Wallace Stevens, published in 1917.
- Snow Falling from Cedars
- Five Ways of Looking at Snow:
- The Snow Queen
- First Snow Flakes
- Cold Outside
- Snow Has No Vanity
- Always There
Snow Falling From Cedars Snow falling from cedars in the candy-cane-striped forest sounds and looks like ice cream dropped from a cone onto the leaf-packed road of the forest floor The wind gently draws a lacy snow curtain between the very quiet, oh so very quiet trees And the leaves drip icicles, slowly, soundlessly while the snow falls loudly from the cedars.
The cycle of poems in this collection is Five Ways of Looking at Snow, with the main idea of using a few of the many terms that the Sami people have for snow. Note please, it’s not the “eskimos”. For each term I wrote a haiku. The haiku is a Japanese verse in three lines. Line one has 5 syllables, line 2 has 7 syllables and line three has 5 syllables. Haiku is a mood poem and you are not supposed to use metaphors or similes.
The introductory verse, Five Ways of Looking at Snow, is a classical Sicilian Quintain or Cinquain (5 lines) in the rhyme scheme ABABA. This poem has seen many rewrites to get to its current form.
Five Ways of Looking at Snow With no recall of long ago when ice and sleet gave winter words, there is much to pronounce and know about the many milling herds of terms the Sami’s tamed for snow.
1 White light wakes me up An open door in the dark Fresh fallen åppås
Åppås: Virgin snow without any tracks.
2 Your heavy boots trudge Cracking vahtsa like eggshells Lead me into woods
Vahtsa: One or two inches of new snow on top of old snow.
3 Släbsát, pure last night Now embroidered with fox feet Prim pairs of stitches
Släbsát: Snow lying on the ground with animal or human footprints.
4 Slabttse sadly drips Dirt on a pretty girl’s face Shows in the slow melt
Slabttse: Falling rain mixed with snow, showing the ground in patches.
5 On the trees, skilltje Delicate brooches of ice Woven in branches Emerald foliage Sparkles like jewels in the sun On the white-cloaked path
Skilltje: Lumps of snow and ice attached to objects, reindeer moss and trees.
The Snow Queen In a palace of ice lived the snow queen - walls of ice crystals, floor of ice slabs, windows barred with icicles, a frozen, callous heart. But you melted mine with a woolly beanie and a snotty, frozen kiss on a chairlift, turning my glacial court into a sparkling playground.
First Snow Flakes Look up. There, you see it:- A snowflake, the first one, drifting sideways, tumbling in and out the light of the street lamp, like a silvery feather dropped from Winter's pewter wings folded over the breathless, waiting earth. And look, there’s another one…
Cold Outside Come out and ski, call the falling snowflakes networking outside on the window pane holding each other’s microscopic little hands and sliding in ranks down the glass to the mass gathering on the sill, their tiny, scratchy demands ignored in favour of the fireplace.
Snow Has No Vanity Snow goes away It always does You try to keep it Stare hard at, memorize it Put a ball of it in the freezer Lick it, sit in it, lie down and make a snow angel Think that if you pay attention it will stay like a girl who knows she’s pretty and waits to be appreciated and if not sulks and goes off But it goes away in any case Of course it does But it comes back too in its own, sweet, time exactly as you remember it blue-white, hushed, and filled with stars That is the randomness and the wonder of it.
The four quatrains in this poem have the same “simple”, ABCB rhyme scheme. It has also gone through a lot of rewrites to get the form right.
Always There On the trail, in patches of shadow, I lose sight of your slow, plodding tread, and in panic I search out your profile against the dense timber ahead, trying to hear which is your voice, mid the sibilant, gossipy trees that may be whispering to me, or just weaving snow-signs in the breeze. Panicked for the longest second, in the twilight, forbidding landscape, thinking I am lost, or you are, I see something coming awake:- A snow-covered tree stump shuffles; it’s you, bending over your camera. And I finally see your true nature: a fixed point in the snowy ephemera.
Photos by M. Bijman and M.F. O’Brien
Poetry by M. Bijman
A Chez Mob Production© 2012