Thursday, December 30, 2004

Poured in the pearl blood of angels


Night before last and it was just past midnight. I opened the door to call Spook in. Spook is a six-month-old black cat. There's nothing racially denigrating about his name, which was given to him by me because his big yellow eyes appear perpetually rounded in terror as if he's just seen, and is continuing to see, a ghost dog. He has become spoiled about warmth, especially since it's gotten colder here over the past six weeks. Warmth is something we have in common.


So I called for him on the porch and saw that something was very different. The first snow of winter was arriving. It was an hour's worth of what would be three inches by morning. Silent, icy dandery fluff. I was awestruck. One seldom predicts the exact hour in which the first anything arrives: babies, postcards, messiahs.

I have experienced only three virgin drifts in my life. The first was on New Year's Eve in Springfield, Illinois. It was 1995. I was visiting the midwest with my then girlfriend, Stacy, staying at her mother's house. We had already been there for nearly two weeks and everyone had hoped for a white Xmas. No white came. Only c-c-cold and ice.

So when the first flakes began falling at sundown, it was the beginning of a much anticipated magic. Later that night, long after the noisemakers had been discarded and the revelers gone their many ways into the newly christened year, I watched delicate shadows on the wall made by snow falling outside. It was mesmerizing. The next morning, I looked out the window. Everything was white. No tracks, animal or tire, no sign of disturbance visible anywhere. The world had been miraculously poured in the pearl blood of angels.

The second time was on New Year's morning, in Santa Fe, New Mexico. It was 2001. The true outset of the New Millennium. I was spending the holidays with my then girlfriend, Kim, at her pueblo-style home in the rural township of Eldorado. We had spent days tumbling about the old streets and Plaza of the City Different, browsing the many creak-floored art galleries of Canyon Road, writing poetry, making art, sipping music and sleeping in late.

We spent New Year's Eve inside, eating things we made with our hands, attending to kiva fire duties, moving quietly within a cozy house in the high desert. Dawn brought grey flurries of first snow. I opened the door and ran outside onto the walkway, into the diagonal tread of windblown ice. I was shirtless in sweatpants and sand-colored Ugg shoes. My hair was long then, running halfway down my bare back in black twists of tornadic fury made more so by the mock-blizzard wind.

Kim snapped three photos of me, my upraised arms in jubilant snowy celebration. I have one of them on the inside cover of the priceless original art book she made for me. Later, that first millennial morning, we both drew our own portraits in pastels and colored pencils as a creative commemoration of the new century. Poets caught in the frieze of Time.

The third time was two nights ago, here in The Dalles. As Spook scurried in, I held open the door of my breath and slowly let an excited sigh slip into the halo above the lamp pole across the street. Midnight and the first snow of my Oregon days. I watched it descend for several minutes and several more after that. Snow bears a silence that is muter than most. It seems as if it almost wants to make sound yet, in the strain of listening, the secret nature of snowfall presents itself. It is something holy.

The poem below is titled from an excerpted line in a poem called, London Snow by Robert Bridges. It's also the name of a music piece called, Asleep, The Snow Came Flying by Tim Story. It became the starting point for what follows:


the snow came flying. It settled on the duffeled yards
and roofs, along the edges of new leaves never laden with
such wonder. It came in a moment between the worlds,

when miraculous things arrive in common places.
There was a music thimbled in hoar and quartz that formed
along the spiked flakes, no two alike. It might have been

piano, the striking of toy elements, one against the other,
like the gentle collisions of waking and dreamfulness. I was not
sure when the snow ever looked so pure, so made of the shavings

left by milled angels who stood too close to the turbines
that flew the gates of drift and ice and fell, fell, fell from
heights never fallen from to sift and swoon, sky and surge

in demon whirl and deviled wind, the softest down known
to redemption. And snow came flying as I, asleep in quarters
unguested, missed it all for darkness was all about me, deep

in the slumberdrowse where I made graceless absolutions there
to rise again, rise and walk from such unsleeping to see their white
robes amassed and strewn like sorrowed sails of a billowed ship.

Joseph Gallo
April 2002


Blogger ankhara99 parried...

Beautiful poem Joseph. We got our first snow here starting sometime before dawn the day after Christmas. Awakening at 7:30 am I gazed out the window to what closely resembled a blizzard (at least for NC). We only got 2 inches of snow however it might as well be two feet for how it freezes all normal activity here. Nature's way of reprioritizing your life and resetting your perspective.

December 31, 2004 7:39 AM  
Blogger Kyle parried...

Beauty has a way with you, Joseph. I've gone up into snow, stepped out of cabins to play in it, got a big 4x4 Bronco high-centered in it once. But in my travels, I've been more like to wake to the suprise of inscrutable tule fog. Peaceful but deadly ... like what?

January 05, 2005 11:34 PM  
Blogger joseph parried...

Having one's perspective reset is not at all a bad thing, Ankhara. I very much welcome it, especially when wandering in the vast tundras of the mundane and routine. And all we have to do is tilt our heads slightly sidewise and it's surprising how such a small movement can make the world look so different.

Tule fog, Kyle? I didn't know you were a 4-wheelin' mudslinger who once lived in Bakersfield. ;-)

January 06, 2005 6:44 PM  

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