POETRY by Priscilla Atkins

FEBRUARY 2006

The Center of Snow

There is a silence in the beauty of the universe which is like a noise when compared with the silence of God.
Simone Weil

After a week of latticework clouds,
tipped flower pots,
my own sorry lot–
the world felt pressed down, spread thin,
nowhere to begin
or end,
a hopeless seeking–
finally, this afternoon, the snow begins.

Thick and fast it comes.
All at once, roofs and road go white;
my shoulders let go.
I breathe in, breathe out,
think of Electra
waiting for Orestes.

How a thin woman with deep-set eyes
reminds me:
the sister did not go knocking door to door,
did not demand of the world
that her brother come;
she waited.

These moments, slow-white, falling,
I am in love with absence,
worlds clarified in dreamy abstractions.

Oh, half-starved French philosopher,
you funny friend,
right now, the soundless silhouette
of someone like me
is offering someone like you
an old coat, hat, mittens,
then, hand in hand, the two
quietly walk into the purist pitch
to carve noisy wings in the center of snow.

The Drama of Snow

This alcove was your office
that last year,
when your one wish
was to be tucked away
from those who would wonder
at tubes and tank,
a woman sitting in a wheelchair,
faced bowed to her lap.

This afternoon, snowflakes
falling on the shingled slope
stick like flocks of miniature doves,
the cold of asphalt
combined with proximity
extending each life’s expectancy.

But those that land on the copper ledge
melt on contact, as if anxious
to return to a simpler state,
and I wonder,
that last January,
determined to finish
what you’d set out to do,
did you consider minor tragedies,
major miracles–
did you have time to know?

Priscilla Atkins’s poems have appeared in The Southern Review, Poetry, Shenandoah, and Southern Humanities Review, and are forthcoming in Raritan, Prairie Schooner, and Poetry London. She serves as a reference librarian at Hope College’s Van Wylen Library in Holland, Michigan.