This is us.
Nothing but mammals. KATI LACKER

To celebrate Valentine's Day Week, I'm temporarily returning to the poetry column I wrote in the early days of the pandemic, back when the loneliness of quarantine was tender, when Republicans and Democrats worked together to clear store shelves of toilet paper, and when The Stranger employed twice as many writers.

As we all know, a tradition invented by freaky Romans and carried on by medieval English poets, horny Victorians with suddenly cheap postal service, and greeting card companies dictates that we must send poems to crushes and partners during this time of year. In these posts, my hope is to keep that tradition alive, and to expose you to some love/sex poems you may have missed in school.

We've covered two Mary Ruefle poems in this column already ("Kiss of the Sun" and "Red"), but, with snow in the forecast and romance in the air, the only poem on my mind right now is Ruefle's "Snow." You can find the poem in her book of prose poems, The Most of It, or you can find it over at Verse Daily.

A few notes:

• Some of you may notice right away that Ruefle wrote this poem in prose. There is little you can say about prose poems that doesn't immediately induce boredom, but suffice it to say that a "prose poem" is simply a poem without line breaks. It's a poem because it "feels" more like a poem than it feels like flash fiction, and it probably "feels" more like a poem because the piece moves at the level of syntax, image, and syllable more than it does plot, character, or theme.

• In any case, this column-shaped prose poem reads like the news, which gives it speed. And Ruefle is at her best in humorous persona poems where she riffs on a thought until it transforms into a glowing universe, and that's exactly what "Snow" offers.

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• By way of explication, the poem is pretty straightforward. The speaker begins with a proposition: "Every time it starts to snow, I would like to have sex." She then entertains a scenario and few funny contingencies before linking the idea of humans holing away to have sex as snow falls to birds holing away in a bush to escape the snow, noting that they, like us, "are quite useless in snow," and that they, like us, look kind of adorable when they're "intensely accepting their incapacity."

• Thanks to the French, any poem about sex must mention death (la petite mort), so it's no surprise that Ruefle jumps from birds in bushes to snow on tombstones. Here, in order to intensify the overall coziness of the whole poem, the speaker contrasts the coziness of the living burrowing in a bush or a bed with the non-coziness of the dead burrowing in the cold hard ground. This move then sets us up for my favorite line, which describes the snow as falling "with such steadfast devotion to the ground all the anxiety in the world seems gone." Ruefle's use of romantic language to describe the snowfall ("steadfast devotion") links the living lovers in bed with the weather, which, of course, recalls the beginning of the poem, when the sudden arrival of snow initiated the speaker's desire to have sex in the first place.

• In closing, I'd just like to say that I am also looking forward to the snow "no matter if it is snowing lightly and unseriously, or snowing very seriously." For those of us lucky enough to have a roof over our heads, the cold weather adds a homier justification for staying in than the one we've grown used to since last March. Like the speaker in the poem, watching the snow "carefully everywhere descending" will make me feel as if the "whole world has joined me in isolation and silence," even those assholes who are still working out at newly reopened gyms.