Friday, January 26, 2018

snow day (excerpts from a work-in-progress,

            Here is a system. Time pours from its mouth.
                        Lisa Robertson, The Weather

First thing this morning, Christine and I each receive an email regarding the cancellation of buses across the school board. The warmer temperatures bring the potential for freezing rain. We live too close to the school to take the bus; for the cancellations to affect us. I still bundle both children for the sake of our Rose, and another day of junior kindergarten. Neither cancelled, nor snow: what kind of snow day is that?

Anna Gurton-Wachter responds to my email. Monty Reid responds to my email. Nikki Sheppy responds to my email. Stephen Brockwell responds to my email. Neil Flowers responds to my email. Pearl Pirie responds to my email. David O’Meara responds to my email. Annick MacAskill responds to my email. Christine McNair responds to my email. Sarah Burgoyne responds to my email. Shazia Hafiz Ramji responds to my email. Christine McNair responds to my email. natalie hanna responds to my email. Christine McNair responds to my email. Christine McNair responds to my email. Christine McNair responds to my email. Christine McNair responds to my email.

Ian Williams responds to a photograph of my home office: “Don’t you feel perpetually overwhelmed?”

“I saw the photo of your writing desk and wanted to close the door.”


When I repeat a story, it is because I am close to learning something new about it.

The willingness to explore an already familiar terrain. Freezing rain.

Rose barely notices. Our toddler, Aoife, remains unimpressed. Fixed, in a grimace.

My father’s boyhood story of his overactive dog, losing a leg to machinery. My father’s boyhood story of his overactive three-legged dog.

The snow and the driveway and the entire fabric of nature. Out of memory, out of sight. I will not leave the house.

When I repeat a story. What might I have missed.

Reading Kate Greenstreet, I’m held by the integrity of her collage and coherence. “All our bones, and the mountains.” Rereading Rosmarie Waldrop, the linear abstracts of her Blindsight. I am attempting, yet again, to describe.

Snowmen, sizzle. A break in the tide. Are we meant to apologize.

For the weather, I mean. The snow. A Canadian stereotype. I’m sorry.


A year ago, I wove a lock of Emily Dickinson’s hair into a poem. In the Archives and Special Collections at Amherst College, a lock of her chestnut brown set under glass.

Mt. Holyoke, where Emily Dickinson was classmates with the Robertson sisters, far from their Glengarry County. Margaret Murray, who would go on to become a successful novelist, and Mary, called home by her father, for the sake of marriage. Mary, who became mother to novelist Ralph Connor, literary pseudonym of the Rev. Charles Gordon, who himself would become father and grandfather to novelists.

That I could write. That I could also write. As I am writing.

Sacred Emily. From Gertrude Stein’s 1913 notebook: “Foolish is foolish is.”

The first impulse with fresh snow: to make a mark upon it.

In an email, Samuel Ace writes: “Emily haunts the whole valley on that side of the river – from Amherst to South Hadley. There’s a specific New England interiority – brought on by the snow and the quiet of the woods – that I feel so strongly when I’m there. One has to scratch one’s way into being.”

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