In The Snow

Author: Paul Brodowsky
Translator: Margot Bettauer Dembo

I have switched to observing the spiders in my fields. In recent weeks they must have multiplied inordinately; yet it is still two months to go till Indian Summer. Whole rows in the potato field are gray with their webs despite the fact that I go through the fields every day knocking down all those I can reach with my stick. I rarely get to see the spiders themselves; they hide among clods of soil or under leaves. For this, early morning walks are very promising, but since the spiders started nesting in the cherry tree outside my bedroom window, I also draw the curtains at night, and waking up early is out of the question now. Despite the closed windows I have to change the linens daily. Morning after morning my bed and hair are covered with light gray cobwebs.

The blue-black dragonflies are long gone; they were the first to appear. They seemed to be interested in my eyes and would sit for minutes at a time in front of my pupils. Meanwhile, there are olive flies, blue-green and silky; they have settled like a string of beads around my neck. The presence of the olive flies might make me feel uneasy, but I can still hear my pulse-beat, distinct and regular. Since the olive flies arrived, the horseflies have stopped alighting on my skin. I also feel remarkably cool, possibly that’s because of the shady location or perhaps I fell asleep at some point, but my pulse is too strong for that. The ground seems soft to me, almost warm, like a blanket under me. Now, some beetles arrive to inspect my chest and arms, and I’m no longer so sure about my pulse. Perhaps it was only the rustling of the leaves and branches above me, or that I was hearing the dull, regular beat from force of habit.

The snow is in the leaves of the trees, in the clay soil, in the grass on the hill. You can smell snow, they say. But I smell only withering grass, beetles, and earth. Just yesterday the snow lay knee-deep on the ground, on the winter-brown hill, on the bare branches. Possibly my father lay under the snow yesterday, one of my big brothers. I refrain from taking more extensive walks and keep between the hill and the edge of the forest. Now and then I put dandelion leaves under my tongue; that way I can keep in touch with the snow. Perhaps I’ll wake up in snow tomorrow.