American Culture · American Literature · Classic · Collection · Contemporary · Poetry

David Berman

The Spine of the Snowman

On the moon, an old caretaker in faded clothes is holed up in his
pressurized cabin. The fireplace is crackling, casting sparks onto the
instrument panel. His eyes are flickering over the earth,

looking for Illinois,

looking for his hometown, Gnarled Heritage,
until his sight is caught in its chimneys and frosted aerials.

He thinks back on the jeweler’s son who skated the pond
behind his house, and the local supermarket with aisles
that curved off like country roads.

Yesterday the robot had been asking him about snowmen.
He asked if they had minds.
No, the caretaker said, but he’d seen one
that had a raccoon burrowed up inside the head.

“Most had a carrot nose, some coal, buttons, and twigs for arms,
but others were more complex.
Once they started to melt, things would rise up
from inside the body. Maybe a gourd, which was an organ,
or a long knobbed stick, which was the spine of the snowman.”

The robot shifted uncomfortably in his chair.

David Berman, Actual Air. (Grove Press, Open City Books; 1 edition, July 1999)

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