How warm and playful the Summer breeze
as if a kitten nestling the earth,
the world a ball of yarn at ease
in the kitten’s cuddling mirth.
But while at first the puff-padded paws
hug the world with nought but friendly play
they soon extend their icy claws—
Winter clasps its helpless prey.
Cold December winds shiver the lake,
like the frigid breath of a Jotunn on the prowl,
and with his passing the trees begin to shake
and the frightened dogs begin to yowl.
The land was speaking again
with the wilting of the black trees,
the yellowing of green fields, the glen
strewn with leaves from a cold breeze.
Beneath the dismal gloom the land lay
languid while clouds drizzled a cold shower,
gloomy droplets throughout the day
mourning the waste of every flower.
And the sun was gone, as if it had crashed
into the cornfields, with their broken stalks,
and burned itself out, shattered, smashed
into cold black soil, strewn with rocks.
Wherever the land spoke, it decried
like an old man afraid of the long, deep sleep
to come beneath the blankets of Winter-tide,
heavy, cold, silent, heap upon heap.
When they think of their holly-jolly season
have they not the wherewithal of reckoning or reason
to think of the jolly fat man with his rosy-cheeked smile
but an avatar of delusion, an effigy of denial?
Think back to our ancestors and their bitter winters
that bit with winds and snows, the icy splinters
of that fanged desolation with its arctic blasts
and the famine and the silence, the starvation that lasts
much overlong, as a cruel-clawed hag of want
whose every kiss leaves us shivering and gaunt;
and so do not deceive yourself with dazzling lights
or warm fireside carols, or candied chocolate bites,
nor smile in cheer of a frosty-bearded elf—
rather, see it from the distant ancestral self;
look back through the cold and the darkness
to see black and white, life and death, in all its starkness:
see this wendigo calamity of each passing year
returning round again with the gift of fear,
and humility, and the keen awareness of Death
as they huddled in huts together, their communal breath
heavy with cold, an apparition of prayer
frosting upon our lips, stillborn upon the air,
and recall, too, the jolly saint withered, frost-bitten,
his fingers fallen off after he has eaten each mitten
and his red suit now white with the furious blizzard
while he wanders, snowblind, like a deranged wizard.
See him burn down a whole forest of Christmas trees
to raise his body temperature by a few degrees,
and now he calls out to children, shakes his sleigh bells,
and hungers for youthful meat while the wind wails.
His reindeer shun him, for they all wisely know
not to trust a starving man, or his laughing “Ho ho ho…”
I suppose we ought feel merry for a bellyful of Christmas hog
rather than long-pig roasting over the cruel yuletide log.
Standing in the cold,
I watched snow fall last night,
white specks drifting down
from a great black height
and stared at one snowflake
inevitably, its uniqueness
arrayed as a crown
lost in the distance, the dark,
obscure in its detail,
its fractals of personality,
its soul, as it fell
to the wet, glistening ground,
on the hard concrete,
and it melted upon impact,
next to my unmoved feet;
and I wondered if Someone
in that black-and-white starkness
looked on as we all fell,
from darkness to darkness,
and, bundled up warmly,
cocooned indifferently to all,
it did not deign to catch us
as it watched us fall.