It happened, not as we had hoped,
underneath the stars, or along the banks
of a lake, or in an empty pasture,
but shut in amidst a virgin
snowstorm. It was among the coats and castoffs
on the bed in one of our parents’ bedrooms,
they having vacated the premises for some exotic island
just, we naively imagined, so we might have our tryst.
The sensation, if I had to describe it,
was like stepping over the edge
of a cliff into water and not quite knowing
how deep the fall or whether we’d surface again.
I wish I could say it was sublime,
but here is what I remember:
the smoke and liquor like a halo
over the room, the scratch
of his rough jeans on my thighs,
the parting, swift as an axe
splitting wood in half.
Downstairs the party in full
motion as if Bacchus himself
were hosting the celebration
as the ball dropped
to announce the beginning of the new year,
and sailed down the long tunnel of Eros,
of what temptation would lead to.
There were no bells,
no feelings of enlightenment.
Later when I was alone in my bed
I thought one thing: What if it was true,
that in the end he was irrelevant?
I waited all night but not once did I hear
the nightingale fill the sky with reason,
or glimpse the sun muscle through the sky
to announce the birth of the miraculous.
by Jill Bialosky
This is the final weekly poem before the Christmas vacation. Poems will return to your inbox in the week beginning 10th January. The Poetry Centre hopes that all our readers enjoy a very merry Christmas and an excellent start to 2011! Thank you very much for your support of the weekly poem this year.
Copyright © Jill Bialosky, 2010.
‘Virgin Snow’ is taken from The Skiers by Jill Bialosky (Arc International Poets, 2010), published by Arc Publications.
Notes courtesy of Arc:
Jill Bialosky was born in Cleveland, Ohio. She studied at Ohio University and received an M.A. in Writing Seminars at Johns Hopkins University, and an M.F.A. from the University of Iowa. She is the author of the poetry collections The End of Desire, Subterranean, a finalist for the James Laughlin Award from the Academy of American Poets, and Intruder, a finalist for the 2009 Paterson Poetry Prize. Her poems and essays have appeared in journals such as Paris Review, American Poetry Review, Kenyon Review and The Atlantic Monthly. She is author of the novels House Under Snow and The Life Room and co-edited, with Helen Schulman, the anthology Wanting a Child. Jill Bialosky is an editor at W. W. Norton & Company and lives in New York City. The Skiers is Jill Bialosky’s first collection to be published in the UK. You can find out more about Jill Bialosky here, and read more of her work here.
Since it was founded in 1969, Arc has adhered to its fundamental principles – to introduce the best of new talent to a UK readership, including voices from overseas that would otherwise remain unheard in this country, and to remain at the cutting edge of contemporary poetry. Arc also has a music imprint, Arc Music, for the publication of books about music and musicians. Find out more about Arc by visiting the publisher’s website, where there are discounts available on Arc books.