388: Once In A Lifetime, Snow

388: Once In A Lifetime, Snow

388: Once In A Lifetime, Snow

Once In A Lifetime, Snow
by Les Murray

Winters at home brought wind,
black frost and raw
grey rain in barbed-wire fields,
but never more

until the day my uncle
rose at dawn
and stepped outside—to find
his paddocks gone,

his cattle to their hocks
in ghostly ground
and unaccustomed light
for miles around.

And he stopped short, and gazed
lit from below,
and half his wrinkles vanished
murmuring Snow.

A man of farm and fact
he stared to see
the facts of weather raised
to a mystery

white on the world he knew
and all he owned.
Snow? Here? he mused. I see.
High time I learned.

Here, guessing what he meant
had much to do
with that black earth dread old men
are given to,

he stooped to break the sheer
crust with delight
at finding the cold unknown
so deeply bright,

at feeling it take his prints
so softly deep,
as if it thought he knew
enough to sleep,

or else so little he
might seek to shift
its weight of wintry light
by a single drift,

perceiving this much, he scuffed
his slippered feet
and scooped a handful up
to taste, and eat

in memory of the fact
that even he
might not have seen the end
of reality...

Then, turning, he tiptoed in
to a bedroom, smiled,
and wakened a murmuring child
and another child.

"Once In A Lifetime, Snow," by Les Murray, from THE RABBITER'S BOUNTY: COLLECTED POEMS by Les Murray, copyright © 1991 Farrar, Straus and Giroux. Used by permission of Farrar, Straus and Giroux.