February Snow


The tint of the sky between sunset and night.

And wandering with you and your nephew
in that maze, half-lost—Madrid
of the Austrias—looking for Plaza of the Green

Cross where, days before you arrived,
an Opel with false plates was parked, its wheels
straddling the curb, and so the van

heading for the barracks that morning
had to slow to squeeze
past . . . Back at the hotel your mom

is holding up her gift—Amethyst, she says
admiring how light
when passing through a prism

bends. At his window that morning before we began
my student said, ¡Qué bonito!, watching it drift
and descend, settling on roofs and cars.

And I think of you and your wife
and daughter: getting to see Madrid
in white, your visit winding down, and how

I had wanted that lesson to end
to get to the park—Retiro, they say, is the city’s
one lung, and the way the feel and sound of steps

when grass is completely covered
as if walking on a cloud. The year before

on a visit from the coast, a friend
sitting at a window
watched the flakes flutter

and fall, dissolving before reaching
the ground—aguanieve, he said
while from a town near Seville

B-52s were lifting off . . .
I was in a trance that week
though like most things the war

in the Gulf was soon another
backdrop, like the string of car bombs
the following year. And yet that morning

as soon as I heard, something led me
not to the park but down
to City Hall, workers in the street

evacuated, sipping coffee, though I never reached
the site—of course it was cordoned
off, the spray of glass, the heap

of twisted metal, and so later learned their names
their lives. Of the five
there was one: a postal clerk who

as a boy, would plunge his hands
into the white, the cold
a sweet jolt

whenever he got to touch
the stuff, scooping
it tightly into a ball

like the ones he would dodge and throw
years later
at his wife-to-be: those weekends,

those places—away from city air—
a release . . . Miraflores, Siete
Picos, Rascafría . . . It’s in
his blood, she would come to say
chatting with a neighbor
about his thing for snow—the way it falls

softly, blanketing roofs
and groves, villages
nestled in the Sierra’s

hills: it is February
and she is picturing him
and the boy, up there now

playing, horsing around

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