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. She is the author of the forthcoming novel Good Girl, and the poetry collection Hard Damage, which won a Whiting Award and the Prairie Schooner Book Prize in Poetry.
Originally published:
January 1, 2020


Louise Glück’s Late Style

The fabular turn in the poet’s last three books
Teju Cole

The Critic as Friend

The challenge of reading generously
Merve Emre

Rachel Cusk

The novelist on the “feminine non-state of non-being”
Merve Emre

You Might Also Like

Aria Aber on the Poetry of Exile

Writing what can't be named
Meghan O’Rourke


Aria Aber


Aria Aber


New perspectives, enduring writing. Join a conversation 200 years in the making. Subscribe to our print journal and receive four beautiful issues per year.