Snow Day: a gift

Shoveling Snow With Buddha

by Billy Collins

In the usual iconography of the temple or the local Wok
you would never see him doing such a thing,
tossing the dry snow over a mountain
of his bare, round shoulder,
his hair tied in a knot,
a model of concentration.

Sitting is more his speed, if that is the word
for what he does, or does not do.

Even the season is wrong for him.
In all his manifestations, is it not warm or slightly humid?
Is this not implied by his serene expression,
that smile so wide it wraps itself around the waist of the universe?

But here we are, working our way down the driveway,
one shovelful at a time.
We toss the light powder into the clear air.
We feel the cold mist on our faces.
And with every heave we disappear
and become lost to each other
in these sudden clouds of our own making,
these fountain-bursts of snow.

This is so much better than a sermon in church,
I say out loud, but Buddha keeps on shoveling.
This is the true religion, the religion of snow,
and sunlight and winter geese barking in the sky,
I say, but he is too busy to hear me.

He has thrown himself into shoveling snow
as if it were the purpose of existence,
as if the sign of a perfect life were a clear driveway
you could back the car down easily
and drive off into the vanities of the world
with a broken heater fan and a song on the radio.

All morning long we work side by side,
me with my commentary
and he inside his generous pocket of silence,
until the hour is nearly noon
and the snow is piled high all around us;
then, I hear him speak.

After this, he asks,
can we go inside and play cards?

Certainly, I reply, and I will heat some milk
and bring cups of hot chocolate to the table
while you shuffle the deck.
and our boots stand dripping by the door.

Aaah, says the Buddha, lifting his eyes
and leaning for a moment on his shovel
before he drives the thin blade again
deep into the glittering white snow.


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3 responses to “Snow Day: a gift

  1. Beautiful. I also think this excerpt from Andrea Davis Pinkney’s “A Poem for Peter” could stand as a poem in its own right. I just loved it.

    “But when it snowed,
    oh, when it snowed!
    Nature’s glittery hand
    painted the world’s walls a brighter shade.
    Snow made opportunity and equality
    seem right around the corner.
    Because, you see, Snow is nature’s we-all blanket.
    When Snow spreads her sheet, we all glisten.
    When Snow paints the streets, we all see her beauty.
    Snow doesn’t know who’s needy or dirty
    or greedy or nice.
    Snow doesn’t choose where to fall.
    Snow doesn’t pick a wealthy man’s doorstep
    over a poor lady’s stoop.
    That’s snow’s magic.”

  2. Thanks for posting this. I’m a fan of Billy Collins’ poetry, but have not read this before. So appropriate for today.

  3. Sue Heavenrich

    one of my favorites!