How Many Names for Snow

After landfall in Atlantic City,
the Snow Hurricane of 1804,
its extra-tropical up-reach of clouds
unleashed torrents of what turned
to frozen rain, that went to powder,
then became a violent whiteout.

Frozen crystal drifts called firn
turned into hard pack, firm enough
to walk on, smothering the countryside,
culling deer, timber wolves, and sheep.
Steeples and chimneys were blown apart,
barns leveled by force of wind.
Ships splintered onto the beach, as 
stillness haunted the sands and marshes
along what was left of the wilderness
on the narrow barrier island of Absecon
surrounded by the Bass River.

Years later, two self-described hermits,
Jeremiah Leeds and Jonathan Pitney, discovered
what the snow’s violence had fashioned.
Piece by piece, they sold the solitude
for four cents an acre. Soon
the landscape was reshaped once again. Don’t
think for a minute that this is not the same
as our story. Landscapes deprecated,
rivers sent off course, because
we didn’t understand either, that with any change,
the course of all else changes too, after which
nothing is the same.


Jean Cassidy 2016


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