First Snow

Aria Aber

How easy for snow to turn to ice, for snow
   to disappear the light from the ragged

frame of chestnut trees around the warehouse
      by what’s left of wild chicory, scraped

sculptures, weeping dogbane. Hunger borders
      this land, while snow turns all to immigrants,

snow salts the embankment, where turtles wash ashore,
      literally hundreds of them, frozen hard

like grenades of tear gas thrown across
      a barbwire fence. But who of their free

will would ever want to climb that fence
      to live here, who would pray each night

for grace, hoping to pass through the darkened veil
      of shit, to bear witness to smokestacks,

wild champion, knapweed? Who’d loiter around cricks
      glistening with oil, which, once gone,

will, like death, at last, democratize
      us all? On potato sacks in the snowcapped,

abandoned warehouse, there huddle and sit
      the soiled refugees, bereft, cow-eyed,

picking dirt off their scalps, their shelled soles.
      Among them, wordless, is my mother,

and nestled on her lap is I, in love with the light
      of the first snow of my life, so awed

and doubtful still of what lengths the frost wills
      to go, and what shape it will then take—

Aria Aber was raised in Germany, where she was born to Afghan refugees. Her debut, Hard Damage, won the Prairie Schooner Book Prize in Poetry.
Originally published:
January 1, 2020

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