2 March 2004 | Vol. 4, No. 1

Meditations in Desert Snow

Snow, Snow, I'm in love with the dead,

              with this white and broken air—

Without stars there is nothing to keep you

              from slowing the sky.

So, what remains?


Calamus of a raven—rachis, unkindness—

              asleep in the wind,

in the inexplicable nest of exile,

the sheen of ice on its back

              remains a constellation

of its own body.


Cuneiformed footprints of ravens in snow

              mimic their flight—mimic the bend of night-reeds.


Snow, you are the spilled milk of the dead,

              the silk of muscle draped over this tenement

of bones, the last nothingness the desert

folds into its arms before it sleeps.


Morning will transfigure the land,

              will melt down to nothing again.


Winter begins—in the Mission,

              the tourists are pinning prayers

to the reclining saint's blanket:


Honor and grace for the Air National Guard

              because Lord, I need this.


Autumn ends—the dark hair of a woman

              ribboning the wind. Holy Virgin of Sorrows,

Holy Mother of Refuge,

              tear these plasters from my eyes.


There is no autumn here. What remains?

              Silk cassock, rose galloon, ten hunks of salt.


In silence and for silence,

              the snow doesn't say

what I don't want to hear.

Mea culpa, mea culpa

              ravens forgiving the thick air.

About the author:

Joshua Poteat's first manuscript Ornithologies won the 2004 Anhinga Poetry Prize (published in 2006) and his chapbook Meditations won the Poetry Society of America's 2004 National Chapbook Award. His second manuscript, Illustrating the Machine that Makes the World: From J.G. Heck's 1851 Pictorial Archive of Nature and Science, was accepted as a part of the newly revamped Contemporary Poets Series from the University of Georgia Press/Virginia Quarterly Review (publication date TBA). Poems from the second manuscript have won the Ruth Stone Poetry Prize from Hunger Mountain, and have been recently published in Virginia Quarterly Review, Indiana Review, Ninth Letter, American Letters & Commentary, Quarterly West, Bat City Review, Typo, Copper Nickel, Backwards City Review, Handsome, and others.'; if (strpos($_SERVER['REQUEST_URI'],'galleys')) {?>

Author's note: "Appendix:             in           Snow" and "Appendix:           the           Blind (         Specimen    )" are appendices/erasures/ruins/white-outs/bones of my poems, "Meditations in Desert Snow" and "Meditations in the Garden of the Blind (with Whitman's Specimen Days)," previously published in 42opus. Some may call it editing, others just a gimmicky way to get two poems out of one. However, this method has been popular since the 1920s-era Surrealists, perhaps even earlier. For the most part, the goal of my project is to find the ghost underneath the ghost.

For further reading:

See the complete list of work by Joshua Poteat at 42opus. Browse the contents of 42opus Vol. 4, No. 1, where "Meditations in Desert Snow" ran on March 2, 2004. List other work with these same labels: poetry.

42opus is an online magazine of the literary arts.

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