City Snow


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:

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.



2 thoughts on “City Snow

  1. I often remember a day spent walking in Manhattan, it snowed all day yet the ground was only wet, as if there was not snow, only rain. It was like living between two worlds! Thanks for all of your imagery and the wonderful poetry choices.


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