The Snow

There was silence except for something –

it was music. The snow was a million people who had died

and were falling from a black sky in the shape of white stars. Look at them:

their trickery, soothsaying, illusion.


When I was twenty-five years old I worked in the early mornings stacking shelves

in a department store. Shakespeare said, “be not afraid of greatness” but I was not great

and I feared it. To achieve greatness I had to be something

great. And I was an empty black morning sky. Its chill dangling like cold pigs in an


To feel small is to feel nothing, and that was when the snow fell.

I walked through Liverpool listening to Neil Young’s Heart of Gold, the harmonica screaming

through all blackness and little dots of shining cold white, cold as frostbite, cold as

the ocean, cold as death; to rattle your bones like a maraca.

“Keep me searchin’ for a heart of gold / and I’m gettin’ old.”

Neil’s old-young voice eclipsed with the white of the snow, the only sound out here

as though in space, or the birth of a new universe;

and with the sky black – black like death, like a pupil, like bedrock – and there, over it

was this whiteness falling, tiny dots illuminated by lampposts like stars falling

and the stars, too, were small like me. The greatness, loud in the snowy silence.


I am thirty-two years old and I work in an office as a writer. Words that I love

become boring, inconsequential, nothing.

I stepped off the train at Waterloo, felt the early evening winter chill rattle my body,

and there

snow was falling. The people around me vanished.

White snowflakes like stars, like little flames turned to ice, from the greatest unknown planes, fell


onto me. I wiped my eye where a snowflake was, its tiny hieroglyph shape like a

spiderweb where I was caught. I listened to

Radiohead’s The Tourist: “Hey man, slow down, slow down.” Thom Yorke’s voice

overshadowed by the snow; a whispery pitter like ghosts in discussion. The sky was black,

the train times yellow, puddles were silver,

the snow was white like little lights that lit up my path.

“It is not in the stars to hold our destiny but in ourselves.” These were not stars falling,

people were around me. I was not alone, though I knew not a single soul.

I thought if I fell like the snow, I could light up someone else’s life

and flash in their eyes before the black sky faded.


© Michael Holloway