John Bensko won the Yale Series of Younger Poets Award for his first book, Green Soldiers (Yale University Press, 1981). He has published three other volumes of poetry— The Waterman’s Children (University of Massachusetts Press, 1994); The Iron City (University of Illinois Press, 2000); and the newly released Visitations, winner of the Anita Claire Scharf Award—as well as a collection of short stories, Sea Dogs (Graywolf, 2004). His work has been anthologized in The Morrow Anthology of Younger American Poets, and The Yale Younger Poets Anthology, among others. A professor of English at the University of Memphis, he teaches in the creative-writing program.
A winter day cannot avoid its snow.
Can I accept that I do not belong to myself?
On the street at night a flurry of shadows falls
across the light. Can I think that I will not be?
My feet leave impressions
that the snow itself cannot remove.
Things melt. Hair grows gray, then white.
Disappearing, can I think those I love will be gone too?
I love snow, when it falls fast and thick,
when the wind takes it and throws it up against itself.
To explain me to me. To know
exactly what I am, and am not.
Snow does not worry, does not toil.
Its only order is to fall and deepen.
When we unbecome ourselves, when we melt
in moments we cannot bear, who do we become?
I like to watch the snow melting leave the footprints. The icy
remainders where I’ve gone down the walk are the last to go.
People like to speak of the soul, and the soul’s awakening.
It drifts, it rises and falls, it deepens.
Watching it at night, I wonder how thick it will be by morning.
In the day, I hope it will not stop before night.
Copyright (c) 2014 by John Bensko. All rights reserved. John Bensko will read from Visitations at the Jackson Madison County Library on April 3, 2014, at noon. The event is free and open to the public.