how clean the world

e.v. de cleyre boston green line train snow

How fitting, everything covered in white, the day after an acquaintance’s death. Even the recycling bins look pretty. Even the kale and swiss chard left to rot in the garden, now shriveled and withered, look pretty. The walkway to the front door, the railings on the back porch, the neighbor’s roof, all white, a seamless shawl. I forgot how clean the world looks when covered with fresh snow. How new. And yet how desolate. Few cars pass by the house. Fewer pedestrians. The neighbor stands outside in long sleeves, jeans, and an apron, taking pictures with a phone.

The sky too is a blanket of bright white. Rooting through my computer for a document, I come across images I took of Boston the day before I left it for Portland. It’s eerie, the way the footprints on the lawn of the museum two years ago match the ones in my backyard today, the way the sky is that same shroud of white, the way the train tracks here are coated with snow, just like they were there, back then. Has nothing changed? Am I still essentially the same person, with more tattoos?

e.v. de cleyre MFA boston exterior snow

It’s been two years, and still, people ask me where are you from and I answer New Hampshire. The further I am from it, the more likely I am to claim it as my own.

People seem impressed, or maybe just relieved when I do not say California. Because of this, I start offering it up more readily, without being asked. In New Hampshire, I say, an inch of snow is nothing. 

Here, it is something. An inch of snow effectively shuts down the city. Buses disappear from the schedule, saying they’ll arrive in ten but never show. The ones that do are fitted with chains, the sound of metal whipping the ground a kind of haunting, cold and cruel. Without snowplows or trucks to coat the roads with salt and sand, streets and avenues become sheets of ice.

The snow turns to rain overnight, freezing and coating the branches. We wake to a world of glass, so quiet and so still, that the crunch of boots is heard as people pass the house. The neighbor’s roof melts, thick beads dripping down to expose gray shingles.

The train crosses the new bridge over the Willamette, and the little sliver of Ross Island that faces it is dusted with white at the feet of its bare trees. Mt. Hood is barely visible, a mass of white hovering over this amalgam of evergreens and rooftops, of docked boats, of bridges, of manmade sand pits beside the train tracks.

When will I change my answer to the question? When will this become home?


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