There’s a Patch of Old Snow
By Robert Frost
There’s a patch of old snow in a corner
That I should have guessed
Was a blow-away paper the rain
Had brought to rest.
It is speckled with grime as if
Small print overspread it,
The news of a day I’ve forgotten —
If I ever read it.
This poem was running through my mind as I walked to work this morning in the fresh snow. Now that I re-read it I realize the snow is not even snow! But Robert Frost knew that urban streets have their own images, just as the country does.
Snow is infrequent where I live in Washington, D.C., and when it does come, the city changes the snow. Snow gets pushed around, snow gets dirty. I got to thinking that- just as people like the Inuit who live with snow have many names to call it and ways to describe it- we urbanites have our own kinds of snow. I thought I’d try describing some city snows:
- The pristine white newly fallen snow we all adore, transforming our world into another.
- But then the snowplow comes and spits gray slush into a wave across the white banks.
- The sidewalk snow full of boot treads, padded doggie footprints, and if you look closely the delicate tracery of bird or squirrel feet.
- The same sidewalk snow as above, but now frozen overnight, so each footprint’s edge catches your balance or crunches under your steps.
- The corner gutter where the white snow transitions to frosted. Remember- it signals slush, and you have no idea how deep! Step around.
- The small round pools of melt surrounding the blue chemical crystals strewn over important pathways.
- The lovely sidewalk with white banks of shoveled snow, the gray concrete cleared of snow and then dried by the wind. A perfect path.
- The same walkway after a thaw, where melt ran under the snow. Now the concrete has a thin layer of devilish black ice; now you see it, now you don’t- whoops!
- The “pathways of desire”, trodden flat by children finding their way to slopes to sled.
Here’s a favorite poem about that first snow:
By Mary Louise Allen
Snow makes whiteness where it falls,
The bushes look like popcorn balls.
The places where I always play,
Look like somewhere else today.