Sunday, January 15, 2017

Poem: "My Brother Stands in the Snow, 1947, Paterson, NJ" by Maria Mazziotti Gillan

Blizzard of 1947 in NJ   Photo: nj.gov/state/archives/ 

The Great Blizzard of 1947 was a record-breaking snowfall that began on Christmas without prediction and brought the northeastern United States to a standstill. By the time it stopped on December 26, measurement of the snowfall reached 26.4 inches (67.1 cm) in Central Park in Manhattan. Drifts exceeded ten feet. Low temperatures that winter led to the snowfall remaining on the ground until March of the next year. Communities in New Jersey received the same or greater snowfall depths that created similar problems, which became threatening because trucks that carried coal to heat the majority of homes and food deliveries could not be dispatched to replenish diminishing supplies.


Playing in the Snow (MSA)
Playing in the Snow - archived photo via Flickr


My Brother Stands in the Snow, 1947, Paterson, NJ


Fifty years later, my brother is still my baby brother.
I imagine him in his woolen winter coat, tan-colored,
that with his sallow face made him look dead,
and his woolen hat that matched the coat. It had ear
flaps that snapped under his chin. He is about four
and looks wide-eyed and sweet and even then,
self-contained. I can see him standing in the snow.


It is 1947, that huge snowstorm where the snow is piled
almost to my chest. Even fifty years later, my brother
who has now been a doctor for more than thirty years,
is still my baby brother. Though he is my doctor, though I
admire and love him, though his hair has turned gray,
I can hear my mother’s voice telling me to watch out
for him, as my sister watched out for me,
so that even today, I can’t help worrying about him,


can’t help reaching up to smooth down his thinning gray
hair when it is rumpled and fly-away, as though he were still
that little boy whose hair I combed so carefully, wetting
the comb first and parting the hair as my mother taught me
so he’d look good when people saw him on the street
where I dragged him behind me, held his hand
and scolded him as we walked.

by Maria Mazziotti Gillan