The end of summer
came with a crash,
and winter was colder,
colder and deeper,
than I ever expected
winter to be. In this winter,
I crossed the ice
over deep water. I could
clearly sense the bottomless dark
under my feet, and the thin layer
of brittle ice supporting me. Now,
as I reach the far shore
and spring approaches, I look back
over my shoulder, and I see
the ice on which I have so lately,
so confidently trod, shattering
behind me into the thinnest
of slivers, and the hungry water
swallowing them. And I take
a deep breath, turn my face
to the shore, and hope
I can climb the bank.
In the winter
things are reduced
to essentials. We see
the bones of the land, the bones
of trees, the stark elegance
of the underlying structure
of life. And we see the frailty
of our own soft flesh, the brittle,
yet lasting structure
of our own bones —
our bid for eternity.
on the earth, bitter
black frost, and a winding sheet of snow
upon her withered breast, and
deep within me, dread
I don't know what she wants —
I don't know how much
she will ask of me,
but I fear her, love her,
I am forever bound
to her by ties
more enduring than blood.
Encircled by dark trees, icy in their wintry death
and bleak against a lowering sky,
I hear the bare branches sound
a muffled drum to the north wind's piping —
the muted threne of my coronach.
Naked to the piercing wind, barefoot in the snow,
I kneel before her.
I see her face, ancient, wise
pitiless — more beautiful, more seductive
in her changeless purity
than the radiant, scintillating face of life.
Her song of death
is the only song in my heart
as she takes me in her shadow arms and holds me
to her frost-riven breast.
The lucent blade, sharp-edged, cuts
and glitters red against
the dead white snow and the bright blood,
my heart's blood, falls
on her lifeless, icy breast - the crimson vital fire
a scarlet stain on her shroud of snow.
And I am daughter
to the killing frost and to the fiery
I have drunk her cup of bitter blood
in pain and cold.
I have given myself, my heartfire
to the dark and frozen earth.
I know her reality, her death, and I know
my death in her.
I am crystal cold, alone,
death's daughter, and my heart's blood
falls on the icebound earth,
falls on the quickening seeds
of a future spring.
Last summer's pine cones
lie in the new-springing
grass. Brown upon green.
The pines whisper their secrets
to each other, but the oaks
stand silent, still sleeping, buds furled,
in this between-time which
is not winter, not spring.
And I find that my own heart
resonates with this —
caught between a cold
and wintery grief and a
burgeoning spring. I keep
trying to make the jump,
but March's bitter winds
push me back.
'Pneumonia' and 'March Winds' were first published in Otherworld Arts, January 1996.
'Initiation' and 'Bones' were published in In The Crone's Shadow, 1995.
Copyright © 1995 and 1996 by Jessica Macbeth. All rights reserved.
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