Paper Snow

By Erik Bendix

We live in a fatal snow of paper,
raining words and bleached cellulose
in through every mailbox hole,
each a vortex for storms of print
blown in from the nation of trees,
gusting to the furthest recesses of our homes or
floating noiselessly onto chairs and countertops,
leaf upon leaf, good words and bad, even eulogies
to the trees felled to serve their publication,
speechless now on shelves and floors and
rising to dusty yellowing mounds that only
a death could belch back out to a landfill.
People lacking strength to sort and discard
and shovel their daily snow out the door
succumb to its silently rising drifts until
they desiccate within the final litter of a
woodland that might have healed them.

Once, words were to be our salvation,
but now the light we read for dims or moves
to shine among those who hold their peace:
the frogs, immobile guardians of the water’s edge,
the infants writhing to reach their mothers’ breasts,
the damselflies a-mate on hovering wings,
the porpoises plunging their merry secrets
once more beneath the upturned face of the sea.
Our little bark of words tosses in such oceans of silence
we could come asunder like the detritus of dead fish
and snow down from the water’s surface mirror
to such depth below the sea’s immense weight
that we could be flattened into mute traceries
of our once full-bodied lives and land like
dried flowers pressed into books
of dark shale, like dried
paper flowers.

A schoolboy drops his books
by a window to watch how winter
snow piles up: some flakes swirl up
against the falling curtains of the year
like upswept prayers for resurrection,
unanswerable in how they sweep aloft.
Snow transforms by its earthward melt,
its hopeful seep into crisp crocus roots,
its slow trickle into limestone aquifers,
its free splash down a rocky precipice
to bubble itself into wagging streams
that coil away slowly toward flatland
torpors of oxbow and humid estuary
until at last its waters exhaust their silt
out reedy bird-squawking river deltas
that drain to ocean waves that speak
a different rhythm tongue than ours,
and before which it may be best to
gather ourselves as the waves do
and only write what heaves
itself up from the entire sea.


Originally from the San Francisco Bay Area, Erik Bendix attended a progressive school high in the Swiss Alps and then went on to earn an M.A. in philosophy, politics, and economics from Oxford University and in philosophy from Princeton University. He worked as an editor and in alternative education before settling in North Carolina with his family. There the lilt of local speech and storytelling lured him to seek his own poetic voice, and the lush natural surroundings nourished the impulse to let that voice grow. He is in private practice as an experienced teacher of the Alexander Technique and as a Body-Mind Centering practitioner. Both disciplines require a daily practice of being alive to the life of the body, and that aliveness seeks expression in his poetry. He has studied with Richard Tillinghast and Robert Bly and has often attended both the old Asheville Poetry Festival and the current Asheville Wordfest.

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