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 masked

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,

the 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.

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