The Comfort of Elders


Imagine words are snow we crawl under
and scratch at matted ice for crocuses.

Or, flattened on our backs in white,
that words fan angel wings.

And how could we forget
that clouds are words too?

Puff and blow
uncertainties into solid shapes,

wait—
How far will they glide?

But after shadows thin, and night
breaks through its first star,

throw off snow and run, wondering
what if white words burn ?


Questions and Answers

What inspired “Subtexts”?

“Subtexts” was created when I was fretting about Postmodern theories of writing, which I disliked. An image popped into my head of cold white snow (like writing paper) containing, yet hiding, crocuses (meaning). This image quickly led to the free and happy childhood memory of making snow angels (creating), but also to the fear of getting my tongue stuck to ice (being silenced).

What poetic techniques did you use in “Subtexts”?

I used alliteration (“what if white words”), near rhyme (“shapes … wait”; “run, wondering”; “how … clouds”), and internal rhyme (“throw off snow”) to pull the sound together. I arranged the lines in a couplet pattern because I thought the list-like appearance on the page suggested different possibilities, unresolved.


This poem “The Comfort of Elders” originally appeared in Postcolonial Identities. Spec. issue of Canadian Literature 149 (Summer 1996): 34-34.

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