artwork for Joanna Cleary's poem The Snowman

The Snowman
Joanna Cleary

He stands outside, our lone watchman
who guards the house from salesmen
and carolers. My daughter made him
last weekend; already, he’s melting.
The winter sunlight presses cruelly
down on his flesh and I find myself
praying he’ll live until the holidays
so we can rebuild him. Just hold on,
I think, mindlessly folding laundry,
and soon we’ll sculpt your naked self
beautiful again. I want to sit outside
and read to him my son’s old books,
the ones he’s discarded, until the cold
makes me numb. I’m needed, however,
inside: to wash all the piled up dishes,
to help the kids with their homework,
to tell bedtime stories. To be confined,
I say to myself, is to be safe. How often
my snow child must feel the same way,
his life spent watching, from the lawn,
cars spray slush on the sidewalk. Soon,
I’ll have to go out and tell him the truth:
tomorrow might go up to 10° Celsius
and, if it does, we likely can’t save him.
I’ll place my bare hand atop his head
until the cold makes him mine; to suffer,
I’ll tell him, is to live. Then, I’ll hurry
back inside the house, my thawing body
torn between the snow and the warmth.



Joanna Cleary’s Comments

As we grow up, what seemed magical to us as children often seems mundane to us as adults. “The Snowman” attempts to explore what it means to walk the line between being resigned to mundanity and the hope that, even if only for a moment, it’s possible to once again see the world with child-like wonder. Perhaps, for some, the act of writing poetry can be a way to reconcile the two.

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Frigg: A Magazine of Fiction and Poetry | Issue 60 | Fall/Winter 2022