The child writes her verses. Bookish snow
           Falling beyond her windowpane
           Dances elusively: dropping rain
           In remembered summer of short ago
           Played no descending games, and so
           She scribbles away as much for the sake
           Of remembered cadence, as for the ache
           Of seeing one last falling leaf
           Summer had held in unyielding fief,
           A motif she will take:
“One last flake that refuses to linger
Pirouettes down on my outstretched finger.”

           Again she picks up her pen. The snow
           Inscribed behind her windowpane
           Dances allusively: winter’s reign
           Over remembrances cannot slow
           The backward-running streams that flow
           Up from the brimming past to creep
            Into the present, where from deep
            In their undreaming sleep, they make
            Figures of innocence jingle and shake
            And leave in their wake

One last leaf
                          It refuses to linger,
And pirouettes down on her outstretched finger.

          She turns to her desk, at a time of no
          Snow: summoned up on her windowpane,
          Returning in moments of refrain,
          As if with her breath, words come and go
          With just enough childish warmth to break
          The cold white heart of a frozen lake
          Her thoughts are lost in the cold of time
          But two last lines, glittering with rime
          Fifty years afterward startle awake
          One last flake,
One last flake that refuses to linger
Pirouettes down on my outstretched finger.


John Hollander

 

 

This article originally appeared in The New Criterion, Volume 10 Number 8, on page 41
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