Snow Signs

By Charles Tomlinson 1927–2015 Charles Tomlinson
They say it is waiting for more, the snow
   Shrunk up to the shadow-line of walls
In an arctic smouldering, an unclean salt,
   And will not go until the frost returns
Sharpening the stars, and the fresh snow falls
   Piling its drifts in scallops, furls. I say
Snow has left its own white geometry
   To measure out for the eye the way
The land may lie where a too cursory reading
   Discovers only dip and incline leading
To incline, dip, and misses the fortuitous
   Full variety a hillside spreads for us:
It is written here in sign and exclamation,
   Touched-in contour and chalk-followed fold,
Lines and circles finding their completion
   In figures less certain, figures that yet take hold
On features that would stay hidden but for them:
   Walking, we waken these at every turn,
Waken ourselves, so that our walking seems
   To rouse some massive sleeper out of winter dreams
Whose stretching startles the whole land into life,
   As if it were us the cold, keen signs were seeking
To pleasure and remeasure, repossess
   With a sense in the gathered coldness of heat and height.
Well, if it's for more the snow is waiting
   To claim back into disguisal overnight,
As though it were promising a protection
   From all it has transfigured, scored and bared,
Now we shall know the force of what resurrection
   Outwaits the simplification of the snow.

Charles Tomlinson, “Snow Signs” from Selected Poems 1955-1997. Copyright © 1997 by Charles Tomlinson. Reprinted with the permission of New Directions Publishing Corporation.

Source: Selected Poems: 1955-1997 (1997)

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Poet Charles Tomlinson 1927–2015


Subjects Time & Brevity, Nature, Winter


Poet, artist, and translator Charles Tomlinson was born in Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire in 1927. Fluent in German, French, and Italian, he read English at Queen’s College Cambridge, studying with poet Donald Davie, who was an early influence and later became a close friend. Tomlinson taught elementary school before joining the University of Bristol, where he taught for 36 years. His collections of poetry include Relations and . . .

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SUBJECT Time & Brevity, Nature, Winter


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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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