180 WORDS FOR SNOW

“Cut. Cut. Cut.”


It’s the mantra of every editor and poet. A good poet aims to stir memory and pull heartstrings with just a phrase. Spitting watermelon seeds. The weight of your grandmother’s quilt. Without a lot of language, you feel juice trickling down your chin and smell the familiar perfume.


What is poetry except the best expression of the fewest words? Less is more. Poems are short.


That’s the problem I run into when writing about Chris.


The man deserves a dictionary.


I’ve tried and tried to be concise but he merits all the good words, and maybe a few of the bad ones.





I’m not the only with a problem with brevity.


Recently, I read about the Saami people and all the words they have for snow. It's shocking. Obviously, one word would never be enough; after all, the hard-packed cahki snow (which is rude to use in a snowball fight) is very different from new, soft vahca snow.


Not dozens of words. Not scores. Hundreds.


So this poem, 180 Words for Snow, is about my husband.


It’s also the longest poem in the book because if you can’t beat ‘em …



180 WORDS FOR SNOW


There is a people group
hidden
at the top
of the world.

They dwell
inside
reindeer hide,
in the tickle

and grit
of soft
creature strength;
it shields them

from the biting
wildness
of raw-edged
isolation.

There on the
stony banks
of Norway’s
cut-glass sea,

the Saami roam,
placing their feet
one by one
in reindeer tracks,

shooting their lives
from the cannon
of need
across a canvas

drowning
in white,
burning
in white,

bleeding
in white.
And there
removed

from the
bustling world,
the Saami people
have learned to see

the arc
of the planet
bending