|The flat, steely sky
Is fringed with thin, bare branches,
Their fractal patterns merging
Into colonnades of sturdy trunks
On a base of forest floor.
The road is gray as the sky
That meets it in the distance.
The snowflake stars rush forward
As the car slows from warp speed.
I called the poem “First
Snowfall,” and I was not completely
comfortable with this version for several reasons:
The “warp speed”
reference to the TV show was obscure and perhaps not precise.
Potentially, it detracted from the universality of the piece.
The last four lines—and
particularly the last two—seemed only loosely connected to the
rest of the poem.
The poem seemed too
irregular, but, since I tend to worry about this sort of thing a lot, I
wasn’t sure that this issue warranted my concern.
Friends suggested that
I change the last line, and members of my writers’ group thought
that formatting the poem differently might make it more
I thought about the poem
for more than a week without finding a way to improve it, and, by
December 18, I
was nearly ready to declare it finished. My attention had been
focused primarily on the last line, as it seemed that a revised line
could at least put my number one concern to rest. In the back of my
mind, however, I was also wondering if I should be saying that the
road was as gray as the sky or the other way around. While
leaving the poem as it was, I began thinking more analytically about
the last few lines. In particular, I considered permuting variations
of the last two lines, and even the last four lines. Rather than
use the “warp speed” reference, I thought of having the car “speed”
(or some such) toward the horizon. I also thought of referring
somehow to an “avenue”—I wasn’t sure at first if this was the correct
or only possible word—of trees. I noticed that the poem had
nine lines and consisted on one long and two short sentences. There
was an obvious break after line five, and I began to think that I
might give myself another line to play with by dividing the poem
into two stanzas of five lines.
In the end, I did add a
line and break the poem into two stanzas, each of which is a single
sentence. The various ideas I was considering came together as shown
seen above, and it is probably neither helpful nor possible to list
the exact sequence of changes that brought the poem into its final
form. Notice that the two first-line references to the sky help to
tie the poem together. The emphasis now is less on the car, which only provides an observation post for the reader, and more on the
look of the sky and the avenue formed by the colonnades of trees,
each of which helps tie the second stanza more tightly to the first. My
final decision about the body of the poem was whether the seventh line should end with “at the
horizon” or with the original “in the distance.” I finally chose the
latter, though not with much conviction. “Horizon” seemed a bit
too scientific and precise, but, since the poem was already using
mathematical (“fractal”) and architectural terms (“colonnade,”
“avenue,” and so forth), the choice was not at all clear-cut.
The final change to the
poem was to its title. As a member of my writers’ group pointed out,
“First Snowfall” wasn’t very distinctive and didn’t tell the reader
much that was not obvious from the poem itself. Moreover, every
reader seemed unable, on first reading, at least, to pick up on the
fact that the “avenue” referred to in the last line is an avenue of
trees, not an urban thoroughfare. “Winter Avenue” makes the snow a
bit of a surprise and, I hope, suggests the proper kind of
avenue as the reader is digesting the first verse.
Because poems such as this
one have no rhyme and rather loose meter, it is sometimes hard to
decide if they are good or not. Before I revised the poem, I was
having trouble deciding whether the “Star Trek” reference
substantially strengthened or weakened the poem. Also, it
seemed that the beginning of the poem was stronger than the ending.
Having spent more time thinking about the poem and revising it, I am now pretty happy with the result.
— LED, 12/18/2006