When you walk out in it
(Chekhov)


When you walk out in it you know you need to stand in the snow like
this
so everything will become clear to you just like this one is or will be
like each branch turning to find its way in out of the cold inner air
shuttered in the white pale skin of the arm and inside the deep set
center of the leg
against the low and mighty turning of the ground.

When you walk out into the snow like that
to stand like this you need to know you canít do it this way forever.
Not like that. You need to know how every winter birch
is only part of what it once was here a thousand years ago,
the way millions of us have built it up out of old low tombs in just
that way
to reach the most central places of this waiting fall of snow
that is not the palest skin, but whole and breathing in and out like
this is,
just like you are, even more alive than you are.

When you go out into the snow like this
bring your shoes back in with you
so you can hold them up like that, the way
white skies hold themselves over pale new snow.

You donít see it quite that way do you
but itís here. You knew it could have been just like this
the moment you came out to stand like that inside this

frozen radiant perfect movement

of two white winter birches.
-----------------------------------------

the way to some birches

Are these the best
birches you get going down to the barn
on a snowy clouded-up winter afternoon, taking branches
up to that grey-blue sky so it mirrors
the breaks of the trunk-paper turning?

How that branch there
twists and turns its way up to the light in the daylight
in or out, and decides itself up or away from the light?

How does it do it, old man!
You donít know. You just use rules. Donít answer me
youngster either, you donít know.

When the light turned leaf
can call its trembling down like a trumpet shimmered from its ancient
branch
in autumn, donít answer me either, husband and father.

Young lovely woman, there is no beauty in all this world like the way
thy beauty moves in you.

*
Walk out past a couple of lonely birches out there
waiting in the lane going out at the springhouse
hard by the woods on a snowy evening after all the afternoon is gone.

Theyíve set it up so we leave them there, patient but unguarded, maybe
wholly invisible to us
walking by in our boots: We have our scarves on when we turn in,
anxious to get home and get dry;


we hold our cheeks, and blow steam into our hands,

and love comes, and then hate, and we keep on going
in this deep snow. Birches.

Poetry by William F. Buford
Copyright © 2004-2007 William F. Buford. All Rights Reserved.