Ten Takes on Snow by Zilka Joseph with comments by Third Eye Staff

My first winter by Lake Michigan
covered me with white, cold, alien snow
till there was no light left
in my tropical eyes.

This stanza seems to hint at the pressure of acculturation that contributes to poet’s sense of isolation, as though this experience is one she is made to bear alone. – Kyle Austin, age 23

My fingers felt snow once,
long ago in Rohtang pass in the Himalayas.
Who knew one day I would be
pressed in its white pages
like a dead flower?
Snow’s a new word I fear.
The ‘s’ in ‘snow’
wraps around me like an icy tongue,
the ‘o’ like blue lips
with the power
to swallow everything.

Such simple similes hold so much power. They give the word "snow" a whole new depth and allow the reader to feed off of the narrator's emotion. – Sarah Branz, age 19

I see a girl in a far away country
lost in a field yellow with mustard flowers.
Now, I watch a woman
staring out of the window
at a Land of Snow,
and Snow people who do not know her.
Numb and awkward,
my frozen fingers
grasp at snow, fresh fallen.
They try to make a snowball
like a child’s first try
at kneading chappati dough.

I like how the 5th stanza conveys how out of place she feels just by describing how she tries to make a snowball. She tries to fit into her surroundings by doing something as simple as making a snowball, but still feels clumsy and child-like. This is an excellent use of showing vs telling. – Laura Crouch, age 20

Fantastical and magical
the flurries flutter and whirl
going nowhere.
My state of mind exactly.

I like this comparison of the snow and the speaker’s mind, as if her thought process follows the irregular pattern of snow falling. – Kara Madden, age 24
The mixing of sentence structure keeps the reader always on the edge, especially here, where "My state of mind exactly" refers back to the rest of the stanza. – Patricia Schlutt, age 17

Snow-flake, snow-fall, snow-drift, snow-bound.
How do I explain snow
to friends who have never seen it?
My father lives on that side of the world
where winter is a moth-eaten
wool sweater worn from November to January.
Rubbing his chest while watching TV,
he watches the blizzard rage on the news.
Stay away from the snow,
he warns me on the phone.
When the snowstorm grew fiercer
they called it a whiteout.
Like you could wipe your life clean
and start again.

There is something very pure about snow, and the idea of that purity being born of violence is interesting. – Patricia Schlutt, age 17
This stanza seems to suggest the reason behind the woman's move into such a foreign place. Although it is strange, she wants to be there because she needs a new start, which is offered by such a different climate and location. It's beautiful how she uses the image of winter to express this. – Laura Crouch, age 19

We walked knee deep in snow
like excited children.
Like fishermen battling up a salmon-braided stream.
So much harder than
pushing through the sharp-bladed rice fields
when we lived in the sun.

Reading through the imagery of this poem I can really feel the ending. The heaviness and wonder in snow is beautifully brought out in each "take." - Rian Bosse, age 21
This final stanza is a fitting ending for the poem because it articulates the difficulty, or the “battle” of forging a life in a new culture that is drastically different from your own. The poet, like many immigrants before her, finds nothing easy about it. – Kyle Austin, age 23
The vivid imagery impacts our imagination allowing us to visualize her struggle. – Rachel McGuinness, age 20
Through the 3rd Eye was supported in its inception by the Grand Rapids Humanities Council and is currently made possible by continued volunteer effort and private support. Copyright 2013.