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  • Aarik Danielsen

First Snow

Temptation tugs at me. Sit forward in your chair, the whisper comes, and make an inventory of everything broken in this moment, broken by this moment. Be specific. Be thorough. 

Maybe set this litany to music. Something with the poetic relevance of “We Didn’t Start the Fire” and defiant guitars opening wide into the chorus, something like "It's the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine)." 

But none of the tragedies rhyme, so I do not throw my body into this work. Leaning back into a full-figure murmur, I know we both know what’s wrong. Sometimes the naming helps; sometimes it only stiffens your shoulders, bends your spine. 

Six or seven days a week, I live inside-out.

Seeking something for my hands to do, I open a book of poems, flip the pages. “If it please God, let less happen,” Kay Ryan writes, and I circle her prayer until the paper tears.  

Six or seven days a week, I live inside-out. Poems dress up my desires in fresh, presentable threads. Pianos and whole drum sets crash down the stairs stretching from my head to my heart. After all these collisions and negotiations, I know what to do, what comes next, how to be in this world. 

But not now, not as 2023 yawns into 2024. Every day leaves a new hole in the soles of my shoes; I finger them, hoping something occurs to me in the friction. 

In the first week of sometime new, the world somehow surprises me, becomes a National-Phoebe Bridgers duet: “The lights started dimming / And then they went out / Heaven came down like a blanket.” 

Falling snow shrugs off wet streets and eternally gray sidewalks, brushing the grass, the branches. It’s a tattered blanket, just enough to count as a first winter storm, but more heaven than the Midwest has known in months.

Time to get out of your head and let the outside go first. 

New whispers compete for my attention. One voice says wait for something more, something better. The other beckons me past the sodden fence, propels me into the farther reaches of my neighborhood. Time to get out of your head and let the outside go first. 

Out in the barely snow, chilled but content in the middle 30s, better-late-than-never Christmas carols chase away coarser songs. Their verses bend to meet me where I am. 

Still, still still—stillness exists still. 

Let there be peace on Earth, and let it begin not with me, but this humble, pearly cold. 

Remnant holiday decorations defer, even bow, to the snow. Lights burning within houses beat back Friday-night shadows to offer modest welcome. In a gesture of thanks, fair lawns reflect light back toward the sky birthing all this weather. 

And I breathe—colder, clearer, lighter—than I have in God knows when. 

I do not know how to exist outside-in, or if such a life even fits possibility.

Quick as the first snowstorm, the feeling passes. But not the impression the feeling leaves. 

I do not know how to exist outside-in, or if such a life even fits possibility. But tonight, and for a while longer, I want to be blanketed; to wrap the fleeting best of this world around my shoulders and let the covering work a minor miracle inside. 

Like tired blades of grass, my soul always shows through. But after a hundred Lord’s Prayers, the snow falls and Earth looks more like heaven. Perhaps what’s inside and outside of me might bear greater resemblance too. Maybe this moment is less about who goes first, more about the hard pull into something like unity. If it pleases God, let less happen—first within me, then without.


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