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Snow Melting by Gjertrud Schnackenberg

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A poem I sent to a friend, in exchange for the many poems of Dunn, Boland and Young he gave me before. I’ve read so much of these three poets last year, but still not enough, not enough to know them all. So here, another work I’ve discovered recently, which still has me reeling:

Snow Melting
Gjertrud Schnackenberg

Snow melting when I left you, and I took
This fragile bone we’d found in melting snow
Before I left, exposed beside a brook
Where raccoons washed their hands. And this, I know,

Is that raccoon we’d watched for every day.
Though at the time her wild human hand
Had gestured inexplicably, I say
Her meaning now is more than I can stand.

We’ve reasons, we have reasons, so we say,
For giving love, and for withholding it.
I who would love must marvel at the way
I know aloneness when I’m holding it,

Know near and far as words for live and die,
Know distance, as I’m trying to draw near,
Growing immense, and know, but don’t know why,
Things seen up close enlarge, then disappear.

Tonight this small room seems too huge to cross.
And my life is that looming kind of place.
Here, left with this alone, and at a loss
I hold an alien and vacant face

Which shrinks away, and yet is magnified–
More so than I seem able to explain.
Tonight the giant galaxies outside
Are tiny, tiny on my windowpane.

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