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Self-Portrait with Hiss and Rattle of Sleet

Not frogs, not grackles or cowbirds, but sudden and tumultuous, sleet – we’re the only place for miles around, it seems, where sleet does not fall: sleet hammers on, slides off, the umbrella, makes a space that is dry. As much as it fizzes on the countryside, road and every square inch we can see, it makes for us this space in which we stand, hunch, lean-to, in which we huddle together to watch sleet get more boisterous – it reaches our extremities, it gathers like snow on our sleeves, our backs and our shoulders,

out in it: mesmeric. Compulsive. The way those little cuticles of ice clatter and blitz, sizzle and rebound, parabola and skip.

Each one contains the storm. They jig and leap. In slow mo and real time they act out their crazy ballet of expenditure like grapeshot,

pure pelletry, like blasted grains. Like maggots bouncing, you say, they all come down and try to find themselves a little home.

They fizz and crackle, don’t last long; it is their death-dance – We huddle close, are strangely indoors, and can hear how sleet can blast itself against the road and somehow make a tender sound. There is more than rib and nylon between enfilade and dry,

between the road and the clouds. We talk with big voices to drown out the hiss and rattle of sleet by which our voices are drowned out.

from The World Before Snow (2015)


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