Poem of the Day: Jamaal May

by | Jan 30, 2016 | Poem of the Day Series, Reading



                —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)