Snow Birds

Waxed speed beneath me,
new skis tooled by my son
carry me faster than before
but slower still than he, pole-less,
and my husband, giant snow boarder,
who thrill in the wind and blur,
the skill of the bump
and jump, theft of air,
laugh derailing death again.

They wait, they wait
for me, raise a hand to catch
my scanning eye, shooting
down the backside final slope,
always five or more minutes behind.
They hold my place
in the lift line. I don’t mind
being slow. They don’t mind
being cold.

It is Peter Anderson’s 65th.
Our two families, having spent
the morning separate, meet
at the food yurt to celebrate.
Beer, burgers, and chili cheese
dogs gone, gray jays hungrily
look on, panhandle shreds
of hot dog bun, and my son
and the snowboarders speed off.
I hang back with the oldest three
of the Anderson clan and we
begin our descent, four
leapfrogging peers
of the slow switchback,
the quiet snow.

Soon, submerged against
my will in speed trance,
center of the earth
having its way with wax and me,
my half century knees and hips
somehow managing, I
find myself alone, ahead,
surprised. Not behind!
I stop, look back.
Seconds pass.
The Andersons emerge
as a flock of swans, floating
threesome of silent elegance,
telemarking down the slope,
long lines traced behind,
wakes of huge hearts,
snow an EKG tape
spooling steady, slow.

I let them pass, stop near
where they pause to gather,
confer: mother, father,
grown daughter.
Downed they are,
featherless, unruffled,
barely stirred by slight
breeze carrying to me
Pete’s voice, upbeat, a crumb
of witness and wisdom offered
to his daughter, Rose, who listens
open, bright faced,
to how she can improve
her stance, her form, a language
beyond me, and she,
unselfconsciously, sets off
to try it out. He watches
her knees and toes alternate
lovely angles, oiled hinges
carrying the smooth machine of her
over snow like hushed wings,
and, satisfied, follows, and
her mother, Grace, too.

Audience of one,
I choose to slow to watch
the scene unscroll like celadon ribbons
from above, gravity pulling my friend
toward everyone she loves. Grace,
the final dancer, her symmetries
shifting, disappears in flat light
around a bend, the whispered end
of the mountain ballet.

2 Responses to “Snow Birds”

  1. Eduardo Rey Brummel says:

    Oh how I love this one, Rachel. Surely there’s a term for a poem that mirrors its subject? I see this poem calmly and gracefully back-and-forthing its way down the page. It’s quiet hush.

    “…oiled hinges/carrying the smooth machine of her.” YES! I especially love, the smooth machine of her.

    Are you ready for NaPoMo, next month?

    • wordweed says:

      Eduardo, thanks for noting the slope of the poem…I hadn’t intended that myself, to be honest, but how lovely the poem became that anyway… as Jack Mueller would say, “Obey the poem’s emerging form.” I guess I was obeying, blindly, and now you have helped me see it.

      Watching the Andersons telemark is a glory to behold!

      Oh dear! April is galloping toward us, isn’t it? Thanks for the reminder! I hope to hop on that horse, if I can catch the mane as it passes!

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