The Present—Tense

The partial thaw of yesterday now slips
Beneath a crust of light that is white snow.
This snow is hiding stumbling blocks that trip
Intrepid elders’ steps to broken hips
As small-warmed kids are dangled off the floor,
Yanked from falling by firm parents’ lifts.

As sun zaps snow, intensifying white,
Our hearts must bear in mind how nature loops.
Older ones will know, from times before,
That walked-on snow gets dirty in the city,
That snow is slushed to grey, and black ice sheets
Reduce to water that’s the base of snow.

The freeze that kept parked engines choked with hush,
Now locks timetables into standstill groups.
Slow snow lulls vibrant vehicles to lumps
Which bragging buses slide around then shunt
To awkward standard stops of hardly any
One . . . so many drop things till tomorrow.

Time spins, won’t freeze. Snow is white, then goes.
The heavens turn round tensioned opposites
So ancient yin and yang maintain what’s right.
Although these words sound old, clichéd, and trite:
When in the light leave distance for the dark,
When shut in dark keep patient for the light.



Damian Robin is a writer and editor living in the United Kingdom.

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14 Responses

  1. James A. Tweedie


    A marvelous panoramic kaleidoscope of winter images from freezing snow to thawing slush and its effect on street traffic and the elderly. I expect that you have just experienced this outside your home first-hand. I can feel the chill and will choose to stay inside for at least one more day until it warms up a bit!

    Thanks for the walk through winter.

    • Damian Robin

      Thank you, James, for seeing myriad images.

      The poem was started many weeks ago, during the cold snowdown we had here (not an iota near the storms in Buffalo and New York state, but harder than usual for the UK.)

      I was not ignoring the celebration of Christ’s coming or pushing it aside to replace it with the taiji symbols or concepts of Yin and Yang. I posted the poem to Evan weeks ago when the cold and snow, ice and slush, novelty and trouble were in full flow. I made many changes, each one a thought-finished poem that I sent again to Evan. Luckily in terms of my pride, Evan, being so busy, did not look at it til a few days before Christmas and passed it on before its ‘tell-by date’.

      I expect you have ventured out and about since you posted your comment. I wonder if the beach is walkable warm, now. I hope you had a good Christmas. So now it’s happy new year to you from me.

  2. Stephen Dickey

    A striking and vivid poem for me. “The freeze that kept parked engines choked with hush,” is an unbeatable line for me. I have long wanted to write something like it.

    • Damian Robin

      Stephen, thank you. Such comments from someone who writes with precision, as in your gun law poems, are very welcome.

  3. Gail Naegele

    Poignant imagery and meter of man’s existence in light and darkness is a moving and enjoyable read. Well done.

  4. Susan Jarvis Bryant

    Damian, you have taken me back to all the snowy winters I experienced in the UK with vivid imagery that makes me nostalgic. I like your youth and old-age perspectives and your yin-yang conclusion. The closing couplet shines. Thank you!

    • Damian Robin

      Thank you, Susan. The ol’ country’s winters were not like the recent one, in my memory. Glad you like the youth and old/young-age views and last couplet. The poem went through heavy revisions – in the first few, the last couplet hung in higher parts of the the piece. And a repeated rhyme scheme went by the by.

  5. Roy E. Peterson

    As one who has spent time in frigid snowy climes including the South Dakota and Siberia, your poem resonates with me in particular. Like Susan, I am drawn back to my past with the beauty of the falling snow and then dealing with the effects of slush, dirt and engines that won’t start. One of the reasons I now live in Texas.

    • Damian Robin

      Thank you, Roy. A migrant Texan like Susan. South Dakota and Siberia, far apart but so similar, gosh.

  6. Margaret Coats

    I’ll notice your title, Damian. “The Present–Tense” offers more interpretations for the poem. We are presently in the winter season, with all the reasons for tension brought on by cold weather. But maybe we move away from larger or more spiritual present tensions by focusing on wintry inconveniences we must contend with. And in this season of giving and receiving presents, there is often tension concerning gifts. The poem is written in the present tense, coming to a philosophical declaration about time not being stalled like so many other things, but spinning between “tensioned opposites.” Having lived in the Boston area for a number of years, I recall how snow sloshes from white to black, and can only say you forgot to mention how it melts off boots to create an indoor puddle when one finally gets out of it. There’s an inconvenience even for the light and warm part of the story!

    • Damian Robin

      Thank you, Margaret, for your helping precise of potential meanings of the poem. We don’t have snow so often in the UK and when we do it is not much – this December was different, especially in the north, in Scotland.

      Turning our shoes upside-down in the hall, that has many doors off and a staircase, evaporates the snow residue in our house. And note I say ‘shoes’ indicating the thin snowfall. Incidentally, I know that Shen Yun is in Boston today as I will be transcribing some of the audience’s spoken comments. I hope the big weather won’t keep many people away.

  7. James Sale

    I really like this poem, Damian, it’s one of your best: the final couplet is especially fine and satisfying. More please!


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