Thursday, May 16, 2013
Winter Houses (St. Paul, Minnesota, 1957)
Snow is on the sidewalks, and in the streets, a thin layer covering
the Mississippi River, on top of four-inches of ice
—the houses and buildings are all lit—glittery, excited, fires glowing
in hearths, furnaces burning red hot—the frost on the windows
are like shells and pearls…
The world, my world—as I rush out into the cold to meet it, this
early Saturday morning—lies in a coffin of ice, brisk air, but I
must go sell newspapers costing: “Five Cents!” thus, I head on
downtown, I tell myself, I’ll make a dollar… (I’m ten, it is 1957).
I see people sitting in their houses as I walk by: men, women and
children—as if their minds are unoccupied, at 5:30 a.m.!
Some of the houses are covered with blotches of snow; black iron
fences now egg-shaped with delicate streams of flurry-white:
not even one curl of grass rises around the sidewalk stones.
Walking in Minnesota snow can get heavy on the legs, feet,
and upper torso, if not sticky at times: a mile or two can seem
like an immense distance between solid ground and house to
I glance to and fro, from one white house to another, they all seem
the same, the same whiteness that is, all with their shadowy
silhouettes, as the sun rises.
I’d like to lay down in the snow and make an angel, but I’ve got no
time, thus I pass, the snow covered boulevards reluctantly.
Every time I walk this way, at 5:30 a.m., it seems like an eclipse.
But I like the quiet morning cold, some houses seem to whisper to
me— as I walk by, as if they have secrets to tell but I’m too
young to stop and listen; plus people are still sleeping, hands
and knees just awakening, old men clambering out of bed,
holding onto railings and just plain thinking, thinking, of what to
You can see many things, things that astonish a young kid, on a
Saturday morning walk, just walking and minding your own
But I have luminous labors ahead—I’ll sell those papers for the St.
Paul Pioneer Press, make a dollar, and perhaps then some, I
know what I’ll cry out, I always practice it on the way:
“Come AND GET YOUR St. Paul Saturday Pioneer Press PAPER,
only five cents!”
My fingers often get numb from the cold, I have gloves, but it’s hard
to take the nickel or dimes, to make change: fingers fumble, like
goats dance, I mean like goats leap….
Note: “White Houses” was originally a short story, No: 539 ((Written: 12-5-2009), remade into poetic prose 4-23-2013. #3870