LEDA HIDDEN

Christmas Eve, unseasonably cold,
I walk in Golden Gate Park.
The winter twilight thickens.
The park grows dusky before
The usual hour. The sky
Sinks close to the shadowy
Trees, and sky and trees mingle
In receding planes of vagueness.
The wet pebbles on the path
Wear little frills of ice like
Minute, transparent fungus.
Suddenly the air is full
Of snowflakes – cold, white, downy
Feathers that do not seem to
Come from the sky but crystallize
Out of the air. The snow is
Unendurably beautiful,
Falling in the breathless lake,
Floating in the yellow rushes.
I cannot feel the motion
Of the air, but it makes a sound
In the rushes, and the snow
Falling through their weaving blades
Makes another sound. I stand still,
Breathing as gently as I can,
And listen to those two sounds,
And watch the web of frail wavering
Motion until it is almost night.
I walk back along the lake path
Pure white with the new snow. Far out
Into the dusk the unmoving
Water is drinking the snow.
Out of the thicket of winter
Cattails, almost at my feet,
Thundering and stamping his wings,
A huge white swan plunges away.
He breaks out of the tangle,
And floats suspended on the gloom.
Only his invisible
Black feet move in the cold water.
He floats away into the dark,
Until he is a white blur
Like a face lost in the night,
And then he is gone. All the world
Is quiet and motionless
Except for the fall and whisper
Of snow. There is nothing but night,
And the snow and the odor
Of the frosty water.

  — Kenneth Rexroth (1905 – 1982), American Beat poet and translator