Snowmen fascinate me. I like their ugliness and ephemerality, qualities that reflect their makers.
What follows are two contrasting snowman pieces. The first is poetic prose, the second prosaic poetry, interspersed with photos of some snowmen I built.
Days of the Snowman
Day one. Outside a house. A man and a little girl made me. Rolled up my bulk, struggling to shape powdery snow. I was a gathering snowball, growing. He had a picture in his head of what I might look like. She didn’t. She held what was to be my nose and flung snow with her free hand. It’s cold daddy. He barely noticed, intent on the task.
The rough globe of my torso nearly big enough, the little girl helped roll it.
Next came my head, set dismally atop the rest of me. It nearly toppled, so more snow was packed under it, a thick neck. A bore-hole to house my carrot nose. My best feature was my eyes, bits of grey slate, one higher than the other, giving me a pleasingly melancholy demeanour. More bits of slate stabbed into my face in a semicircle denoted a smile. But sticking out sharply, they looked like terrible teeth.
The man and the little girl went back indoors.
I didn’t think of them as God. They wore hats and spoke nonsense.
Night fell and I remained staring at the house.
Day two. A cold clear night crystallised me. Powder turned to little diamonds.
Nothing stirred in me.
No more snow fell, except a light dusting at dusk.
No one came out to the garden. And so the second day passed.
On the morning of the third day the man came back, carrying in his arms a little girl, a different one from before, smaller. He pointed at me and smiled. She pointed too and tried to say snow man. Sounded like no man.
As the day wore on the second little girl came repeatedly up to the glass in the back door and pointed at me. I couldn’t hear what she was saying, but her mouth made the shape: no man and she laughed. She didn’t seem to tire of this pastime.
In the afternoon I felt an orange sun on the back of my head. I breathed in and some of my slate teeth fell out.
During the morning of the fourth day my nose fell off. The bore-hole yawned. Air getting warmer. The man appeared and screwed the carrot back into my face. Behind him, in the doorway, the second little girl. Mouth opening and closing senselessly, repeating: no man.
The days and hours passed, I drifted in and out, my dreams smooth and blank, eyes opening each morning to see the snow around me had shrunk a bit more. I felt myself diminishing.
At night a scythe moon cut through the clouds and my remaining teeth dropped onto my icy paunch.
My head contracted. My thoughts crowded together, too close, too tight. I felt my nose droop. It seemed to me that my resemblance to a human being was becoming increasingly tenuous. I couldn’t even be called a monster, more a goose with a carrot for a beak.
In dream I saw snow and silence.
When my head caved in I knew I’d had it. They’d never rebuild me now. The man found my beak on the wooden decking, a few feet from what I now was: a big snowball.
The radical transformations I had undergone appeared to have neither surprised nor impressed the man. His eyes flickered over me as he stooped to reclaim the carrot. A leaf that had been collected into me on the day of my rolling was showing through now, just below my gut. This struck me as somehow poetic.
All the snow around me has gone. I have no eyes but what’s left of me still stares at the back of the house.
I’m a slow trickle. I’m nearly nothing.
A little hand pointing, a mouth through glass: no man.
Taken from the collection Days of the Snowman
Snowmen are clowns
in sinister stasis.
While you sleep
they smother cats
and feast from bins.
their paunches drip.
the snowmen conspire in silence.
They know they won’t be around for long
but they don’t care.
will be enough for them.
Some of the snowmen are defective.
Ostracised from their own kind
they stare at your dustbin
The snowmen have unprepossessing names.
But their hearts are full
of such pretty
Arthur Clamps intones sonnets
in his sleep.
Over time the snowmen
They curse their makers
in wet whispers.
But Black Snow falls
into your dreams
and can never die.
Taken from Head Traumas.
All texts and pictures on this site are the copyright of James Knight. All rights reserved.