Listen to Lewis Turco read his poem titled "The Street."
“The Street,” which was reprinted in “Take Heart, A Conversation in Poetry,” a column edited by the Poet Laureate of Maine, Wesley McNair, and syndicated in 30 Maine newspapers including The Maine Sunday Telegram, Sunday, January 27, 2013, p. D7, is the central poem in a short series titled “Autumn’s Tales” that depicts a few moments during the onset of the first snowstorm of the winter in a town located in the northern United States of America. The series begins with “The Neighborhood,” progresses through “The Yard” of one of the houses in a row of dwellings, moves out to “The Trees” standing before those homes – originally elms but of latter years more likely maples or oaks -- then focuses on “The Automobiles” parked under the trees along “The Street” of the town. Then the “camera” pans farther along past the boundary of the settled section into the countryside to focus on “The Pond” at the edge of town, and farther still to follow the fences of the farm fields. Each poem describes an incremental increase in the growth of the storm. When the landscape rises the lens shows a high-angle shot of “The Valley,” and the poem ends as the full strength of the snowstorm falls upon a panoramic shot of “The Vista” we have traversed, and everything behind us is lost in the blowing snow.
I. THE NEIGHBORHOOD
The houses are settling into their foundations.
On this block, the houses are settling
into the heat of their furnaces.
The snow settles on the roofs,
into the eaves, onto window sills.
In the houses there is a settling:
the windows go hollow,
the doors set single irons
into their jambs.
The night settles on the houses,
but there is something that arises
to go out to walk in the starlight.
It will not settle,
not even under the moon's great weight.
II. THE YARD
This year's garden is a series of ridges
frozen against the hedge.
A tricycle, forgotten on the lawn,
stands in the arrest of the season:
it rusts among exploded milkweed
as a blue-jay melts out of the sky, alights,
encircles the handlebar with silence.
Not even a wingstroke breaks
the wind rising and descending
to trifle with playthings — husk, seed,
the rag end of dusk.
If the night should come now
it would pin snow to spokes,
to the feathers of the jay,
to the garden which would blossom
with darkness and trailing frost.
III. THE TREES
They stand there
as the first snow comes to lie
among their roots.
In the afternoon some bird, ruffle-voiced,
had told a blue story among them.
They had not answered.
The wind winds up silence
which will hang from the limbs
like a summer kite.
A kite, worn thin by scraping
against the sky, rustles
along the prow of night:
It is a figurehead of tissue,
of soft wood, its ragged tail
caught in shadow, pulling darkness.
IV. THE AUTOMOBILES
The storm seems to gather
from within the steel.
Their fires curbed,
the autos stare down the avenue
as night hunches along its highway
somewhere over the trees
winding its horn.
V. THE STREET
In the street the wind gutters, moving papers
and leaves into heaps or sworls.
The scraps of the year make some kind of pattern,
some calligramme of their own,
beyond the imprint of new snow.
Lightly, on the flourishes of silence,
on the heaps of leaf,
the snow touches and explores.
Finally, in folds of stillness,
flakes begin to form wrinkles of crystal.
By the time dusk deepens,
the wrinkles will be pure streams
drowning whatever is old.
Then, in the night, in the darkest hours,
the road will be a river of snow
aiming toward morning, lost at either end
in the curbs of vision.
VI. THE POND
The pond at the edge of town
looks straight up.
Its hard gaze sees little more
than a hard sky looking down.
A brow of old lilies
wavers at the edge of storm.
Then the first flakes
begin to build a cataract of crystal
across the eye of daylight;
the wind and the blind night
come touching through lily stalks.
VII. THE FENCES
In the pastures the wind walks
browsing beside the fence.
Snow falls among the weeds
that talk together in an unknown language.
The fences parse this tongue.
The farmhouse lies beside the great barn,
ruminative in the early falling,
its chimney rolling up gray against gray.
The doors are closed,
the fields are closed and silent
except for rumors between siftings.
Soon the imprints of cattle hooves
will be small pools of white.
Later, the fences will cut through dusk
as though they were knives with white edges.
VIII THE VALLEY
Seen from the side of this hill
the valley and the river go
together along the ridges into the woods
where the river disappears, where the forest
eats the river and the snow
comes blowing now out of the dusk whitely,
the valley turning white, the river gray
between the flakes falling, the snow and the blue,
hard blue of the river blending into gray,
eating the valley, its river,
eating the snow and, behind,
the night watching from a darkening hill.
IX. THE VISTA
As the storm comes now like a cage of dark air,
the snowflakes fall before it:
they have been frightened by nothing
into their descent.
The trees are filled with small cries.
The avenue becomes a river of still forms.
The cars are trapped in frost fire;
the eye of a pond witnesses what it can
before the cataract steals its sight.
Houses settle into their yards,
farms into their fields and fences.
The hills rise over the valley,
and the river is lost.
-- Lewis Turco
“Autumn's Tales" was originally published in The Mad River Review, Volume I, No. 1, Winter 1964-65, collected first in American Still Lifes by Lewis Turco with cover design and illustrations by George O’Connell, Oswego, NY: Mathom Publishing Company, 1981, and finally in Fearful Pleasures: The Complete Poems of Lewis Turco 1959-2007, Scottsdale, AZ: www.StarCloudPress.com, 2007. ISBN 978-1-932842-19-7, cloth; ISBN 978-1-932842-20-3, paper.