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Poetry and Medicine
December 18, 2002

The Snowman

JAMA. 2002;288(23):2936. doi:10.1001/jama.288.23.2936

My daughter, grown, and I
each start with a handful
of this perfect snow,
pack it tight as clumsy gloves allow,
and then make it roll.
We cross and cross the yard.
My mother, bundled and unsure,
grown smaller herself,
watching the layers fatten as we go,
counts out pairs and pairs
of mittens—offers, forgets,
and offers again,
however warm and dry
we say we are.
Wetter and heavier winters sleep
in the interchangeable names
behind her brow.
We stack our snowman,
finished with twigs, a hat,
a pipe, some coal,
but mostly made
of the underlying stuff
that continues to fall
gentle and perfect as when we began,
on and over us all.

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