Death, Soft on the Snow


In 2017, I wrote this poem to celebrate winter in Colorado. In sharing it with you here, I hope to encourage you to look around and find inspiration from your surroundings. The smallest thing – even a footprint in the snow – can lead to creativity!
 

Death, Soft on the Snow, by T. A. Barron

Death, Soft on the Snow, by T. A. Barron
Download a printable poster of the poem

Death, Soft on the Snow

a poem by T. A. Barron

High on a wintry hill
Snow blows, swirling like a dancer’s dress
made of crystals
sewn with threads of frost.
My skis leave glistening trails,
My breath sparkles like the snow—
I am all alone
on this frozen slope.

Then I see, just ahead,
tiny footprints.
Something small and furry
With a beating heart and quivering whiskers
Scampered here not long ago.
The creature left nothing but these faint marks,
traces that would soon vanish
in the blowing snow.

But no! The footprints end abruptly
With a sudden crash, leaving
A crater in the snow the size of a salad bowl
Marking where that beating heart
Stopped.
Skiing closer, I gaze intently,
hoping to find a clue to what happened here,
Frozen in time and crystals.

With a gasp
I notice, outside the crater,
The lightest brush of parallel lines in the snow:
feathers.
The outermost edge of some great wing—
An eagle, perhaps, or an owl
Who plunged down without warning and plucked
a winter’s meal.

The talons closed tight
Squeezing out every bit of life and tomorrow,
leaving only
A hole in the snow
And the softest touch of feathers
As they flapped
with grace and power
high into the sky.

Almost I could hear
(underneath the wind)
That creature’s shriek of terror
Leaving its mate and burrow behind—
And that bird’s simultaneous shriek of joy
Knowing that, at last,
There would be food
and life
and another
tomorrow.

Buddha once said,
in words that ring forever,
“Make of your Life
a Light.”

A worthy goal, I agree.
Yet even the brightest mortal light
Will fade and finally
die—
With no shine or shadow
that long remains,
Its life as fleeting as the touch of feathers
on windblown snow.

All that matters
All we can know
Is that a light did once shine.
Sturdy and bright at times,
Weak and flickering at times—
For a brief, beautiful moment
it gave
a unique and lustrous glow
to the world.

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