Ground Truth

By Peter Halstead

My world is a clouded land
Of swirling snow and stirred-up sand,
               A plastic sky where here and there,
               Lost in artificial snow globe air,
An imitation textbook storm
Draws my forests in its form,
               Pulls my currents in its tide
               And sleets them on the countryside;
Breezes light, my tack offhand,
My beaches on the sea's last stand,
               On bays abandoned long ago
               And islands lost in indigo,
Nothing brighter when I was growing
Than a darkened forest, snowing;
               Trees my books and waves my rakes,
               Nothing more secure than flakes;
To this day my purpose still
The slow toboggan down the hill,
               Palm fronds weaving in the breeze,
               The heat of morning on my knees:
The only part of any race
The ocean weather on my face—
               My life a balmy accident of fate
               Buried in the water's weight;
My budding trunk no less believes
In autumn pigments in the leaves—
               Days of fire just as bright
               By the ocean late at night,
The summer's dandelion sails
As true as winter's snowblind gales:
               My sight projected on the sky
               And the planet likewise in my eye.

May 22nd, 2013


A friend of mine once said trivial people write trivial novels. I say that to make the ineffable intelligible is to confuse the enemy profoundly. Here, disguised as a snow globe, is an essay on the ends to which our loves bring us, the telemetry of sand and snow: theorems in drag, dragons dressed as elves, wolves in sheep’s clothing, curses cribbed from travelogues. In hydrology, a “ground truth” is the last word on snow, compiled from adventures on high mountain passes; mountaineering masquerading as science. The temper of the sky is found most accurately in real life on the ground.
The pathetic fallacy, where nature neatly mimes emotion, and it rains on a windowpane because Bobby Darin lost his girl and is crying, is here reversed, when we derive human reason from impersonal nature, a slightly less pathetic fallacy.