First Snow
by Tammy Ho Lai-Ming

You show me the communal snow-covered garden,
and point to one of the dwarf wooden boxes—
that’s where you keep your bicycle.
Its saddle retains your smell,
despite the rain you rode through,
just the day before.

I think of the oft-repeated story
of two bed-bound patients in a terminal ward:
One’s bed is next to the window,
the other’s pushed against the wall.
This could be a beautiful picture:
“It’s snowing.  First proper snow in years,”
the first says.
“I can see car wheels stitch marks on the snow.
Sometimes a fox or two phantom around.”
The other patient is jealous:
“Tell me more.  Tell me more.”

We cannot see so far; we can only see now.
Scaffolding is blocking some of the view.
In teatime light, dark as night,
you and I begin to reflect on the glass.


Tammy Ho Lai-Ming is a Hong Kong-born writer currently based
in London, England.  She is a founding co-editor of
Cha: An Asian
Literary Journal
and was previously published in the Apple Valley

On “First Snow”:
Although it is not overtly stated in the poem, in the story of the
patients the only thing visible outside the window is in fact a
high brick wall, which does not offer much excitement.  Thus the
first patient’s generosity to lie about what he/she sees and the
other’s willingness to believe sustains their little daily routine.  
The two characters whose story frames the poem are infinitely
luckier: the scaffolding is gone now, although there are no more
snowflakes to see.  In London, as the days become longer with
Spring, faces do not reflect on the window glass until deeper
and deeper into the afternoon.  I do wonder what they can see
now from the same window.  And what are the implications of
comparing them to the patients?  I do not know.

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Apple Valley Review:
A Journal of Contemporary

ISSN 1931-3888

Volume 6, Number 1
(Spring 2011)

Copyright © 2011
by Leah Browning, Editor.  

All future rights to material
published in the
Valley Review
are retained
by the individual authors
and artists.