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Archive: Contents of American Haibun & Haiga Volume 1

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Kate MacQueen


snowflakes meet
the ground
wet and green

In 1970 I was in love with a boy I met at my high school folk music club. I was shy and did not think that he, a reticent senior, would notice me, an odd-ball sophomore. One night after a meeting he joined my girlfriends and me in a snowball fight. I took off my glasses to catch snowflakes on my lashes; they glittered in the streetlight. With twinkling eyes, I watched my heart's desire get on his bicycle and ride away in the lightly falling snow.

Snow is in my bones the way family is in my blood. I grew up in Buffalo, New York, where it is not unusual to see a few lonely flakes in late October: a warning. But snow is not real snow until the ground freezes solid, usually in December. Snow that falls on damp ground melts within days or hours, forming a gray slush in the streets and a muddy slush in the yards. In Georgia, where I live now, that is about as good as snow gets.

Real snow is different. First, the protective blanket of clouds is sheared away by arctic air beating down from Canada, blasting to the stars the last wisps of warmth hidden in the ground. Walking outside, nothing gives underfoot; even the grass crunches. Then the snow clouds begin to layer themselves, steel blue on blue gray, from horizon to horizon. They may roll in for days, slowly, before they unbale their white harvest.

Snowfall at night is transcendent. Neither stars nor moon are visible, yet the world glows. The hard lines and sharp angles devised by human hands become round and undulating; even voices are softened. I can wake and know that it snowed in the night. Just by listening. On a windless night, each shimmering flake descends in six-pointed perfection to lie glinting, then vanishing, beneath an accumulating latticework of tiny airy crystals. Anything done in such a snowfall is prayerfull, blessed with power. Meditative walks are more cleansing, falling in love more mystifying, good-byes more devastating.

winter solstice
cold yet still
leaves slowly fall

I love cold winters. I love the sound-absorbing whiteness, the squeak and crunch of hard-packed snow, the sparkle from a dusting of new flakes. Driving in the winter rains of Georgia, I tell myself to be grateful that I do not have to endure driving in a Buffalo blizzard, or trying to start a car on yet another subzero morning. I remember the sensation of cold air freezing the moisture in my breath before it leaves my nostrils. I remember snowflakes as small as dust motes, crystallizing here and there from infinitesimal molecules of water on the clearest star-filled nights. I remember the glitter of snow and stars, my heart pumping warmth into the freezing night air, and a boy on a black bicycle, riding away.

the late march wind
tangling my hair
white as the dogwood


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