Throwback: Taking a Bite Out of Winter

Bite Snowman Nose Wilkes Barre Times Leader 1.5.96
When I was in my second year of college, I clipped this pic from my hometown paper and pasted it into my journal. A few weeks later, during the snowy blizzard of 1996, I wrote a poem about it.

College Poem Ruminated on Winter, Parenthood

The snow keeps falling in our part of the world. What had gotten sloppy and root-beer slushy in the weeks double-digit subzero temps had kept us shut inside is now great mounds of white again. And I’ve been rummaging around inside, through drawers and shelves and boxes, trying to dig up one particular journal from my undergrad days.

It was a notebook from my sophomore year. I think it was green and had Marvin the Martian cartoons all over it. Bound by an elastic cord, also green. Somewhere in its pages I’d pasted a newspaper photo of a kid chomping off a snowman’s nose that I’d discovered over winter break back at home.

I was taking Poetry 1 that semester, and around about February, as a particularly heavy blizzard of ’96 dumped drifts and cold on Pittsburgh, PA, I spun off some lines about a dad and a daughter making the best of it and fashioning a snowman that borrowed most of its attire from Dad’s closet.

I found myself thinking about that poem the last few weeks during a winter that seems unusually oppressive. If you feel that way about winter, that is. The snow can be lovely, the cold exhilarating, I guess, in the way that it makes you appreciate the cozy indoors.

These days, maybe, we’re feeling a bit too shut in. The wife, and three boys, and dog and cat and I. And I’d welcome a break from the slop and mud and icy feet and ears.

I never did end up unearthing the journal in which I’d pasted that pic, though the poem itself was easily found on an old thumbdrive holding the contents of an even older computer (my Power Mac 7100, baby!). I wasn’t going to post it, though, with some lame, posed stock photo. And then, today, took me about six seconds to search and find the exact same photo, printed in The Wilkes Barre Times Leader from Jan. 5, 1996 — which meant it probably hit the AP wire and my own Times-Reporter of New Philadelphia, Ohio, about the same time.

I wrote the verses below when I was 19. Just like movies and books and TV shows you watched before parenthood take on a different meaning when you’ve had kids, I read these lines from a different vantage point at 42, with sons. Some of the sentiment there, in this pretend dad, is maybe on point. The imagined attachment to the suit coat and pipe and golf clubs isn’t me — well, unless they got hold of one of my watches, maybe. And I wouldn’t munch the carrot in private — I’d do it in front of them, with them, for a laugh. Let them join in. Keep a few spares handy.

But if, in our godly dominion over the snowmen we create, we can somehow take a bite back at winter, give it some of our own wrath in return? Yeah, I’d take it.

 

Wrath of the Gods

Wrath of the Gods

by Colt Foutz

February 1996

 

We had finally finished him

there in the yard

and my mittens were soaked from working so hard.

For damn near an hour

I’d rolled and I’d packed

creating a snowman while breaking my back

And had gotten the smile

that spelled my relief in

the breath that escaped through my daughter’s teeth.

“I love him, He’s Bernie!”

she wrote in the snow

and I have to admit as I turned to go

 

That Bernie was dandy

quite dapper indeed

even wearing a suit that I

didn’t

quite                     need,

And his scarf was the finest

purple silk?                        yessiree,

which I,                vaguely

remember from my anniversary

And if my wife frowns on that, well,

a tit for a tat

Buddy Bernie is sporting my

one month!

old hat.

I shouldn’t complain though

my daughter did suffer

when I balked at my pipe, she whipped out

a sucker.

“Besides Daddy”,

darling dear daughter had said

“smoking would probably melt Bernie’s head!”

Oh my, gee, oh no

Well now that would be sad, though

his bare chest is covered with a suit from my dad

He’s passed on, god bless him

so I guess it’s okay

to shrink a snow chest with Armani gray.

And what single snow babe

could stand to resist

the golf clubs for arms that beckon a kiss?

Not me, if I was one

They’re both fairway woods

“DADDY?”

Huh? Oh.

“It’s time to go.”

Good.

 

“You go on ahead, dear”

I kissed her gloved hand

“I’ve got a few words for this guy-

man to man.”

She snort-grinned at that one

“Oh daddy you’re SILLY”

and she scampered for home, leaving me

with Sir Chilly.

Deftly, I leaned in

and whispered to him

my fondest affections, and how fun he’d been

And I told him a secret:

“Though I don’t like them raw

crunchy orange carrots are the treat for my jaw!”

And if memory doesn’t fade me

though these days it might

I swear those coal eyes were wide with black fright

as I bid him farewell

and a many cold snows

And with empty, starved stomach

chomped off his nose.

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