American Life in Poetry: Column 299

BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE

Here’s a poem by Christopher Todd Matthews that I especially like for the depiction of the little boy who makes more of a snowball than we would have expected was there. This poet lives in Lexington, Virginia.

Eating Them As He Came

Dark by five, the day gives up and so do I,
stalled at the top of the stairs I forget what for,
adrift in a scrap of dream that’s not a dream
exactly but a stupor, unrefined. I go astray
in old routines, I dare myself to reconstruct
the rules of old invented games—that one
of throwing snowballs at the roof, to watch them
shrink as they rolled down, spinning to their pits,
to see the force that made them briefly a thing
so neatly undone. Today an old friend’s tiny boy
lobbied me to pitch some snowballs at him. I bowed
to his dense little will. But planned to miss.
As I packed and flung each one to its unpacking,
he hunted down the humble bits and crumbs
of every impact, as they ran from him along
the icy slope, and gathered and carried them
back to me at the top. Eating them as he came.
So that’s how you get to the marrow of breakdown.
I forgot. That you could put what’s left to your lips.

(via American Life in Poetry)