Winter nibbles away at the days until they’re pared down slivers of light between great slabs of dark. Winter gnaws at leaves, at flesh, bites down to the bone. Winter swallows warmth, sucks the heat from under skin, grinds life down to shivering dust.
A quadrille for Mish at dVerse – 44 words, including the key word “nibble”. Come and quadrille with us.
The first snowdrops are here. They cling to the edges of the field, the way snow clings to a window frame. Like snow, they linger in the shade. They are the whitest thing I know – whiter than frost, whiter than the moon, whiter than snow itself. They are winter, and the end of winter; cold, and the promise of spring.
Two poems today, one from the lovely Kim Russell, and the other from the equally lovely Mary Earnshaw. They’re both quite short, and I think they work together well – both poems of winter weather.
Gentle Winter Reminder
Snow has been falling for half an hour and already the garden is covered. Slumped by the log store, only the tip of an old sack is visible as I approach, feet firmly in my wellies, one sock creeping down to my toes.
The logs are frozen to the touch, landing in the basket with a thud. I’m so intent on piling logs for the stove, I almost miss him: a cock robin hops along the log-store roof and stops, head cocked, eye shining, breast aflame,
reminding me of my duty to fill the bird feeders with the sweetest trill.
and then Mary:
A wet coming they’d have of it
Beyond rain-bleared windows draggled branches drip beneath a night loured by cloud.
In the East no stars shine to lead wise men, or fools, carrying myrrh, gold and frankincense.
At last the rain stops. We conjure up the silence of a deep snow quilt, imagine reindeer really can fly.
Mary Earnshaw is a northerner with mixed loyalties, born Lancastrian but raised from the age of seven in Yorkshire. She is co-author, with Alan Parry, David Walshe and Paul Robert Mullen, of a chapbook of poems published by Dreich about Southport, under the title Belisama, Ptolemy’s name for that area south of the River Ribble, between sea and moss, where Mary lives. Her poetry, short stories and creative non-fiction have been published in various anthologies and journals and in 2021 she was shortlisted for the Bridport Poetry Prize and the Julian Lennon Poetry Prize.
In 2012 Mary published a crime fiction novel (A Wake of Vultures) set in Zambia where, since 1993, she has spent much time with her husband, Larry Barham, Professor of African Archaeology at the University of Liverpool, whom she met (far too long ago to admit) on a dig in Swaziland (now Eswatini). As a result, her non-verbal skills include cooking concoctions in witchy iron cauldrons, in the dark, over an open fire, for groups of dirty, hungry people.
Light’s spilling from the window, warm as gingerbread, sticky as love. Light’s spilling from the window and I pause here for a moment, between the dark blue night and the light spilling from the window, warm as gingerbread.
In December, we triolet. Another triolet, unrhymed, unrhythmed, stretched and bent, but still recognisable.
now is the time to explore you in misty light so low you become one inky shadow
birch, ash, beech and oak let go of leafy glamour long ago abandoning piles of copper and gold
now your copses are barefaced and bold your glimmering gnarly branches hold mulchy aromas of moss and fungus
I long to see you bathing languorous in myrrhy moon and silver scent of stars
come and explore me in this misty light so low be embraced by my inky shadow
my trees have all let go their leafy glamour long ago abandoned it in piles of copper and gold
my copses are barefaced and bold my glimmering gnarly branches hold clouds of moss and fungus
come, see me bathe languorous in myrrh of moon and silver-scented stars
A little wintry magic from Kim Russell. Kim M. Russell has been writing poetry and short stories since she was a schoolgirl but only began submitting to competitions and anthologies when she retired from teaching in 2014. Her poems have been published on-line by Visual Verse and The Ekphrastic Review, among others, and in print by: Afflatus Magazine, River Writes (Bure Navigation Conservation Trust), Anthology of Aunts and Second Place Rosette (Emma Press), Chiaroscuro – Darkness and Light (dVerse Anthology 2017), Peeking Cat Anthologies 2017 and 2018, and Field Work (UEA Publishing Project with Kunsthalle Cromer). She lives in the UK, in East Anglia between the North Sea coast and the Norfolk Broads, with her husband and two cats.
Winter sleeps in a cave in the mountains, on a bed of ice. She creeps in there as the snow melts, and takes her long rest, lulled by birdsong and the scent of green, growing things. She wakes as the leaves fall in showers of gold and red, and emerges, scattering frost around her. She walks under winter skies pierced full of stars, and dances in wild December storms.
If you find the cave, and enter it, you will see her sleeping there, pale as a snowdrop, lips like holly berries, hair as black as the bare branches of the beech tree in January. Don’t wake her – one touch of her white hand will freeze your soul, and leave you bound, another stone sentinel to guard her bedchamber.