—Fear of Snow
Fluttering ash dissolves on your brother’s tongue.
He thinks of you building a fort from snow
before you knew what forts were
and he could stand in your footprints
without touching the sides.
Can two snowflakes be the same
on a ghost-white street where enough gather
to construct faceless snowmen? In this desert,
sand blinds the way snow did back home.
Your brother patches holes
in men with names he can’t or won’t learn,
and wonders if, somehow, you are still here,
using an earthmover to pour sand
into foxholes. Do you still hear soldiers claw
at the shifting weight of their fresh graves,
or are there only silent arms and legs
in your dreams, bent like strange flowers?
Is the sun a flash grenade? This heat
is so heavy the fruit stands buckle and ripple
like mirages, but your brother shivers
remembering your mother’s shiver,
the way she sank to the ground, heavy
with news, and your body comes home again.
Your bone-colored casket repeats
its descent, sinks under the flag, and a thud
resounds. Fades. He still hears it.
The rub of your snow pants, the fallout
of snowball fights, every ice-ball slapping
garage, snowflakes dragged in circles
by wind, until they blur like a sandstorm—
he hears it all. Deafening like footfalls
against the icy driveway, resonant
like your mother’s voice, calling
the wrong name—your name—again.
—from Jamaal May’s Hum, Alice James Books (2013)