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Poem: Black Snow


In a series of exquisitely blunt, elegiac poems for his mother, Carl Adamshick returns from her dying days to a changed world: “new calendar” — everything has altered forever. (Many poems in his recent collection, “Birches,” are called “Black Snow.”) There is, for a long time after, the shock of the new reality and the difficulty applying the fact of the change to each moment that comes next. Have we ever seen a better image than these tweezers? This brave book stares straight into grief’s paralysis and the continual climbing out — simply to do whatever small things follow. Selected by Naomi Shihab Nye

By Carl Adamshick

From my mother’s funeral
I brought back Illinois

I brought back a ring and a necklace
I brought black snow

I brought a sense of cruelty
and rage that felt fair
to inflict on each moment

I brought back a new calendar
where the days
were ten times longer

and had to be opened
using tweezers on a dial
with a six-digit combination


Naomi Shihab Nye is the Young People’s Poet Laureate of the Poetry Foundation in Chicago. Her latest book is “Cast Away,” from Greenwillow Books. Carl Adamshick has worked as editor of Tavern Books in Portland, Ore., and is a previous winner of the Walt Whitman Award. His most recent book is “Birches” (Four Way Books, 2019).

Illustration by R.O. Blechman.



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