By four we’ve closed the shutters
By four we’ve closed the shutters
Light’s fled the skies
Throughout the ailing autumn
We watched it go sadly and painfully.
Now blessed solstice dawns
Not just the shortest day
But life’s rebirth itself
A time for celebration.
The sun’s stood still, thinking
will it descend again for light and warmth,
Or leave us in perpetual gloomy cold?
Light the yule log
Conquer the darkness, cast out the evil spirits
Tack holly to the walls.
Hang the mistletoe for impish fun.
Drag in the squawking fatted goose
Grease the spit and stoke up the fire
Bake the sweetmeats
Broach the barrel
Tune the fiddle
Blow the dust off the pipes
Let us rejoice!
As the days get longer the colder will get stronger
Just put aside that thought for now.
We’ll wrap up and make the best of it.
Pray, Sir Sun, we do beseech you,
Please descend and lighten our darkness.
Clouds like spectres slithered over rooftops and peeped into the darkened windows. The wind growled, tossing up the remnants of autumn leaves; a reluctant moon snatched a glance at the scene below. I too took refuge, eyes watching the slow climb of the handle up the clock face, listening to the silence. Praying for an end to the witching hours.
I imagined those age-old folk, with their pagan rituals, awaiting the rising of the sun. The ancient stones perfectly aligned to best capture the rising sun in all its brilliance. Banishing evil spirits, bringing light, bringing hope. And I was at one with them. It might be the shortest day but it was welcomed. The sun will rise resolutely, rise each day. And so will I.
Deus Ex Machina
Every now and again her up there tells me to move
I’m just getting used to moving one way
and she says move the other.
Shove your butt.
There you are.
That wasn’t so bad was it.
Now you feel your tides turn neep,
see my lemon ellipse axis turn up its corners,
start smiling again.
Throw a curve here and there
tantalise the snowdrops
the witch hazel and
Feel the love.
How strange we have abandoned
The Winter Solstice.
As if standing on the precipice from dark to light
Is of no real significance.
As if the promise of light that skims
The shining holly on the bough,
That kisses the mistletoe
With faint affection
That clings upon the curls of ivy
Is of little worth.
How strange we celebrate instead
The translated words of ancient men
From distant lands,
Telling of fairy tales
That claim a monopoly on significance.
I sit with my feet on the hearth; my eyes closed.
The children are asleep. The house is drowsing.
Logs in the grate sigh; contemplating their fall
into nothingness and the impermanence of trees.
The quiet is luxurious, precious,
not broken by ringing or pinging
or a random request for a clean towel
or whether we can have more sweets.
The logs don’t care. They lock me into their fiery minuet
and random shenanigans. They dance out humble beginnings
of sun falling on Cycads, Cedars and Metasequoia,
of cloudburst, storm and lightning. They dance for joy.
What the season holds for me.
Jack Frost’s monochrome filigree
Painting a Christmas card dream
While plump brown bulbs cold awake
Thrust their swords toward the beam
And statuesque trees resplendent white
Proudly offset the evergreen
And as ground suffocates ‘neath the snow
Red nosed, caps and mufflers in sleigh rides glow
And decorate homes in glistening bauble
And delightfully dish the turkey
And rags hunched in doorway beds rely on soup-kitchen cheer
And energy-companies clap their hands
And cook the goose each year.
Today is my birthday, three scores, but not ten
Though another ten years could well see the end
The events of this year may not quite be done
But today is my day. A day second to none
Between November 22nd and December 21st
comes December 15th, the day of my birth
I now have two star signs, one more than most
Ophiuchus and Sagittarius are both mine to boast
My reigning constellation is soon to descend
As the Winter Solstice brings it to an end
There’s a lifetime of history contained in my past
But now the BIG six zero, falls upon me, at last.
T. van Olffen
He arrives at the door with barely a whisper and enters unbidden looking pale. I can offer him a strong cup of tea, but no, he is not stopping.
Still, it’s good to see you, I say without conviction.
Lifting a rheumy eye towards me he says that he hasn’t got long and then he fixes on the sprig of mistletoe hanging from the wall. Have you got any, I say, are you putting it to good use?
There is a pause before he replies. There was a time, there was a time, he says beginning to laugh. But this turns into the agony of extended coughing and I want to put an arm around him, but he shrugs me off with I haven’t got long.
And he leaves so soon after he arrived. A black dot against the pencil line of the grey horizon; lost against the charcoal scribble of bare branches and black trunks.
John Irving Clarke
Information on the Agbrigg Writers is in this article by Viv Longley: Writing Together and Seeing It Differently.
(Photos: Giampiero Johnny Murialdo)