Frederick Seidel, “Snow”

Snow (from Poetry)
Frederick Seidel

Snow is what it does.
It falls and it stays and it goes.
It melts and it is here somewhere.
We all will get there.


The being of snow is exactly its activity. I wondered for a little while why Seidel uses “it” in the poem so much after the first word “Snow,” never repeating “snow.” – Yeah, I had the answer to my question the whole time. –

Seidel’s language is fairly precise (I guess more precise than “it” is sticking a literal blank before the verbs?). Three stages of coming-to-be are mentioned: “falls” (coming into being), “stays” (remaining a being), “goes” (going out of being). Snow is all-too-perfectly everything in time. Why do we need this poem?

The last two lines emphasize there might be a problem with “it goes.” Nowadays we create things which might last forever. Why can’t we say that things which come-to-be might be eternal? Distinguishing “falls,” “stays” and “goes” and labeling them “snow” works because that’s our experience of snow. Figuring out whether becoming can yield something lasting seems more a formal, abstract problem.

Hence, “it melts and it is here somewhere.” Snow in becoming water changes its form. The concept of what it is changes. The concept it was recedes even while it is something else entirely (“here somewhere”). The formal actually is the object itself.

Snow isn’t quite a metaphor for death, though it is that. It is more like rebirth, but with change being so, so unexpected. The going-away of snow is its very presence; the object makes perfect sense in time because of what it is to begin with. I can’t emphasize enough just how dark, just how complete, the “unexpected” here is. Snow itself seems to be a complete concept, everything accounted for. What’s so strange is that the very force that makes it fall and stay – the very thing which allows it to be accounted – makes it become something else entirely. For those of us who are self-aware, I need not comment extensively on how we do things to become a certain type of person and then wonder who we’ve become.

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