Laura Bylenok, "Elegy with Snow"



It’s July, in México,
and from the rooftop patio
the city, weatherproofed red,
reflects back the heat and smog
over the buildings to contort
the air so I can’t make out
the mountains to the south,
and as I look across I can’t
believe it but the first wet flakes
unfold from the air and sort of
flutter down; I stand up as,
all around, it’s as if someone
has torn open the sky
and through the smog suddenly
the white mountains seem close
enough to throw a pebble at (I imagine
a small ping against the great glacial ice),
and the shingles and the rooftops
and the mountains seem part
of a backdrop painted
with falling brushstrokes; and over
the patio wall, I look down
into the street, curiously
empty except for a spot of red,
and the snow is now dashing this way
and that above an object (yes—
a shawl someone dropped
on the sidewalk below),
obstructed by the snow
with its unchoreographed signs,
its cold ecstasy of triangles, spirals,
its apparition of empty cones;
and I think, but it won’t stick;
I open my hand to catch
the flakes and they melt the moment
they touch my skin; but there,
below, the red shawl catches the snow,
and the snow mottles it white; but how,
I think, could it not melt; and there,
in the seven stories down,
with the snow skating downwards
in a slow volley, I’m lost
in a movement outside of myself
but which I still feel—
in the way my arm moves up,
unconsciously, inevitably, to pull
my own blouse tight around my neck,
as if I were cold; and the sound
of a police siren winds through the streets;
and into that wail the snow
recedes; there is no shawl, no
snow; a woman—a neighbor,
who might just as easily have slipped
and not jumped—
has fallen from her window;
there is her body;
and sirens; and heat
coming off the pavement below.


Laura Bylenok's poetry has appeared in Subtropics, Hopkins Review, Unsplendid, Sugar House Review, Cimarron Review, Artful Dodge, and other journals. She is a new media editor for Quarterly West.