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“Snow Day Poem” from Arc’s 2019 Shortlist

Heather Birrell’s “Snow Day Poem”


Snow Day Poem

Listen. February is hard with the world
gone all bridal, but married to what? And
it’s easy to say we are free to whoop and
wander inside our own selves but what if
the toad of tiredness has settled in your heart?
What if all those birds of optimism go
unnoticed and the coffee cups in the cupboard
come back tilted? I would like to offer you

some things: a sob, a slope, a seethe, and a hoarse
keyboard. Your mission, if you choose to accept it,
involves civilization, an urn, a cellar, and a cheeky
bit of chocolate. Everybody is so busy building
platforms these days; do you think they will
finally close the schools? It is confusing when men
who look like they belong in locker rooms begin
singing Leonard Cohen songs to children. Confusing

and exquisite. So, here’s the thing: we have no money
and I still want to buy that puffy, overpriced muffin.
The library remains open. I finally have a lip balm
in every coat and purse pocket. I dreamed that
I protected my youngest child from the blades
of a snow plow. We were on a beach and it was not
a snow plow. The loudest thing I have ever heard was
when my brother-in-law took a sledgehammer

to our old cast iron tub. My kids were often spongy and
submerged in that tub. Once they laughed for hours because
one of them said New York Shitty by mistake. We are all
going to be okay until we’re not. And the fact that humans
can make analogies reminds me of that song about the hole
in the bucket dear Liza, dear Liza. It goes on forever and
the bucket never gets fixed but it’s so much fun to sing


Kevin Shaw on Heather Birrell’s “Snow Day Poem”

Like any blizzard, “Snow Day Poem” works by a steady, unrelenting accretion. The poet presents a flurry of what-ifs, worries, woes, and whimsy mirroring the absurdities that wrack the cabin-fevered mind. Beguiling and playful, with precise cadence and diction, the speaker of “Snow Day Poem” has personality, making wry observations of a world “gone all bridal” in mid-winter.


Heather Birrell is the author of two story collections, Mad Hope and I know you are but what am I? and a poetry chapbook Dreaming Fidel. Her first full-length collection of poetry, Float and Scurry, is forthcoming in Fall 2019.