It Was 3 A.M., Winter
and nobody better than I to tell you about
the stillness of snow at that hour, the silence
on the surface and the snow beneath the snow,
deep, white like the black of deep space—
what then, in the 50s, we called Outer Space.
Aliens slid out of it, or else the gravity of earth
reeled them into the frames of our TVs, turning,
turning in their silver disks.
A girl in the rangy, wood shingled lodge (who no one
knew better than I) had been complaining out loud
I can’t sleep!, until her parents in the other
small room called out, Then Pretend to sleep!
But even then, age 11, she felt the weight of it,
The Past, history of men, that long-running fright show
that begins at dawn and goes on after the last station
has shut down for the night, and the screen fills
with crackling, battering, unresting dots, snow.
(What’s on the other side where space ends?
kids used to ask. Probably off-air snow.)
She did not imagine (she wasn’t that good)
the final, ravenous melt, the calving of glaciers,
rivers swelling, seas rising, ice old and obdurate
as stone giving way as if it had held, all along,
in the nuclei of its cells, like humans, the key
to its own end. But she knew after the past
comes the sci-fi scary future, maybe aliens.
Did you think some might show up in this poem?
In the Sierra Nevadas, off frozen Highway 40,
in that small hour? No. Though some whisper
they’re watching as we grow more alien
to each other, and the earth. And even back then,
3 A.M., winter of ’63, nothing on TV, the world over,
only the peaceful slept, and the snow—the pure, numb
and numbing stuff—
which knew nothing. Or knew but didn’t care.