February and November

Gray. White. Brown.

My feet drum the winding pavement. Aine’s face is a yellow balloon through a white shroud, not even shining. White breath puffs from my lips as I run past the brown bark of trees, the white and yellow of dog-pissed laced snow. I run fast and my red blood courses unseen, black as darkness in my veins. But all I want is to dig a burrow in the snow and sleep until spring.

In my poetry, I often use “November” as a trope signifying bleakness and depression. An excerpt from a poem of mine called “Lucy”:
i am
exiled from the sun, i am
Lucy rolled with rocks and trees
i am Clytie in a gray november —
the sparrows eat my seeds

Why November? Perhaps it’s the endless brown and gray, the leaves underfoot, the scent of death not yet washed clean by snow. The sky is still darkening, then. Harsh winter is ahead.

Perhaps I should have made it February.

February is lit by Brighid’s presence, true. Imbolc is always a bright light for me: the merry flicker of the hearth, the candle flames I light in her honor. Being snowbound can be a source of joy, sometimes: books, loved ones, cats, hot chocolate, music-making. The days are lengthening. The Cailleach is loosening her grip.

Except when she tightens it. In the north, February isn’t the merry cherry red of Lupercalia. It’s the white of snow, the gray of slush and skies, the brown of bare bark. Yes, there are buds if you look, but there are also starving deer. The coyotes are mating, rejoicing in their own frenzied Lupercalia. The humans grumble with snow shovels and shake their fists at the skies.

I don’t write a lot of poems about February. It makes me too morose.

However, I wrote this poem in February 2008, called “Hothouse Hyacinths”
pink mouths clamber
up the stalk, an ancient grief
etched on tongues — ai ai ai —
by a god’s fanciful finger.

a gift the color of wan dawn
on February’s fainting couch.
petals pass through finger pads
telling losses like beads,
an abacus, a mala of griefs
on frozen soil.

but not alone in its
disconnected earth, its sheath
of green paper: forsythia
branches mouthing and falling
in a scatter of gold, as sentries

and the bullish heads of
crocus, with saffron serpent
tongues darting from their jaws.
a hothouse spring hovers
by the pane, a temple incense.

beyond, the snowfield:
the white weight stamping down
the bulbs, the wanting green
in waiting while an old
gold ribbon flutters

on a stripped lilac. and in
the world edged and glittered:
small footprints pattern the white
spelling the raw fact
of hunger.

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About whitecatgrove

The musings of a Druid priestess, singer, poet and musician in Upstate New York.
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