Winter for a Moment Takes the Mind
{An Umbrella Special Feature}

Taylor Graham

is a volunteer search-and-rescue dog handler in the Sierra Nevada, and also helps her husband (a retired wildlife biologist) with his field projects. Her poems have appeared in International Poetry Review, The Iowa Review, The New York Quarterly, Poetry International, and elsewhere, and she's included in the anthology, California Poetry: From the Gold Rush to the Present (Santa Clara University, 2004).

Her latest book, The Downstairs Dance Floor (Texas Review Press, 2006), is winner of the Robert Phillips Poetry Chapbook Prize.

—Back to “Extra” Contents—

Checklist for a Trek in New Snow

1.  Snow is never the same.
Memorize its lore late into a winter evening.

2.  Snow is deep in blue shadow;
then, all at once in flame, sunslant in your eyes;
glassy on the Gunsight overlook.

3.  Recite the cycles of thaw and freeze,
new snow on the old packed Northside base
just waiting to slide.

4.  Look both ways, crossing the Sisters cirque;
listen for whoomphs underfoot as you traverse
that falling slope under Cinder Top.

5.  Consider falling/rising ticks
of mercury, how wind sculpts cornices.

6.  Analyze every aspect and degree of slope.
Snow is never the same.

7.  Reconsider your gear. Did you pack
probes and beacons, hot coffee?

8.  Snow is the wordless mind,
a wild creature with pale eyes. Snow
is never the same.

9.  Think of home with its white sheets,
where you’ll sleep deeply in dreams
of the cold bride, Avalanche.



The Snow Index

1.  Snow transforms the world
before dawn, two inches of perfect whiteness.

2.   Snow brings out juncos
burrowing for the seeds I scattered
onto untracked powder, already buried
under half a foot of snow.

3.   Snow compacts and settles, weighing down
the pine boughs, burdening the over-bending manzanita.
The path to the woodpile is a tunnel dimly lit by sky
that goes on sifting snow.

4.   The dogs have tired of dog-
snow-plowing down the slope, rolling dog-snow-angels
in the clearing. They whine at the door, rush in
and shake off a storm of flakes beside the stove.

5.   Somewhere, snow-gravity
brings down a tree across the powerline.
Our appliances go silent. That hum we hear
is the crystal fall of weather.

6.   An avalanche off the roof
leaves just a fragile cornice at the ridgepole,
and heaps more snow on the porch, the front steps,
the immeasurable distance
to our truck, already bumper-deep in snow.

7. The day fades white to gray to black
around a lantern’s single beam. I dream of clogging
snow. By dawn, it hasn’t melted from my mind.