The Crone of Winter


The Crone of Winter

(audio version)

 

The Crone of Winter stands with her back against the frost,

Her hair is carved from ivory, her moustache made of moss.

Her brow it furrows hard as ice above her hollow eyes

And when the wind begins to howl, she joins in with its cries.

Her gemstone orbs, as blue as ice, shine with mottled glee

And stream with crystal teardrops as salty as the sea.

 

She watches the first snowflakes lightly scorch the ground

And laughs as drifts begin to form on every ditch around.

She trails a cloak of spiders' webs about her rime-starched dress

Which flows like liquid oxygen and cowls her drooping breast.

Her fingers sharp and twisted, like the branches of the trees,

Scratch with chalk-board jarring on the edges of the breeze.

 

Her gilded slippers crush the life from insects under foot;

Animals weak, from deer to sheep, fall with just one look.

Words decay the stench of death, whispered soft and clear

Lost upon Siberian winds that mortals never hear.

When she sings, icicles chime like churchyard bells;

Her smile likened only to the frosty gates of Hell.

 

Between her glass-translucent nails, she spins a hoary dust

Glitt’ring like moths’ wings; scented with stag musk.

Wheresoever it doth fall – on birds, or trees, or children’s eyes –

They are protected from the cold, through winter they survive.

She holds within her full-moon palm the gift of life and death

With one hand she does give the gift; she takes it with one breath.

 

Queen of the Boreal, she has a thousand names

To her our whole existence is but one scornful game.

She lives as long as winter, and longer than the years

She knows our hopes, our dreams, our thoughts, our deepest inner fears.

But all of this, in knowing, no compassion does she spare

She never dwells upon it, and neither does she care.

 

She sees so little born in the season she purveys

All she looks on perishes beneath her granite gaze

Nothing ever grows, around her or within

A mother or a lover, she has never been.

How can compassion grow, in one compassionless;

We do not care for her, why should she care for us?

 

All around, soft powder lies, fine as diamond dust

The sharp North winds go riding by, howling out their lust

And the Crone of Winter stands with her back against the frost

Thinking on her loneliness; counting out the cost.

For once she loved the Summer King, when the world was new;

She kept this feeling locked inside, hidden from his view.

 

Back then there was no winter, no coldness in the world

She had been a Countess, skin as bright as pearl.

She’d dressed each day in morning, she’d slept in Twilight’s shade

She’d walked each dewy evening along a scented promenade

Filled with honeysuckle, sweet jasmine and night stock

Up beyond the moon, and the meteor’s burning rock.

 

She’d sit herself beside a fount’, flowing with white blood:

The gods’ own very nectar, that gave life to the mud.

She’d listen to the nightingale sing its soulful song

She’d wait there every evening, she didn’t care how long

Just to catch a glimpse of him, the burning Summer King

His presence hot and powerful: lion’s claw and nettle sting.

 

To look upon him hurt her eyes, it hurt her heart much more

Yet still she couldn’t tear her eyes from what she thought she saw:

A little twinkle in his look, a second’s favoured glance

Conveying through the Milky Way a thought that made her blanch

An image in her mind of them lying side-by-side

A look that told her quietly, he knew her deep inside.

 

Those were eternally happy days, love’s hope grew undisturbed

A rose amongst its cousins: life’s spice and childhood’s herbs.

No worms came to burrow the roots, nor blackfly plague the leaves

Every day a new bud bloomed; expectation towered tall as trees

But into every heart garden, eventually falls some rain

And into hers a monsoon blew, of sorrow, hate and pain.

 

One day she’d waited half the year and still he hadn’t come

Anguish twisted at her lips; where was her handsome Sun?

Eventually she saw him, stood there fine as Day

A look of love shone in his eyes. But, to her dismay

She saw an awful truth in her all-consuming King

For he was gazing past her; gazing past her, into Spring.

 

Her stomach gave a lurch, breath fled from both her lungs

Bile rose in her throat and burned across her tongue

She closed her eyes and locked herself away in darkest night

She cried away her beauty, her youth and looks took flight

Her blood froze in her veins. All warmth, like steam, did rise

And when, at last, she opened them, snow fell from the skies

 

All the goodness of her soul had floated up above

Falling down to earth as icy, unrequited love.

Her sorrow was so great, her hatred was so strong

That all the earth was void of joy, everything was gone

Buried beneath a blanket of her suffocating grief

Sparing not a single plant, not a berry, bird or leaf.

 

As Summer fell for Spring and bore their Autumn child

Winter vanquished all the earth; fearsome, rough and wild

Savage in her loathing, time never helped to heal

Forgetting what it’s like to love, to hope, to think, to feel.

Instead she turned the darker arts of murder and mistrust

All that glittered gold before had quickly turned to rust.

 

But Summer’s blaze burns just as strong as Winter’s fearsome rage

And as the dawn of time grows old, and aeons pass and age

As universes spin and turn, the cosmos reels and gleams

As tides dance, stars implode, rain transforms to steam

As morning dawns, noon marches on, as sunlight starts to dim

Half the year belongs to her, and half belongs to him.

 

And so the Crone of Winter turned her back against the world

Engulfed in snow-white flakes that all around her swirled

Leaving not one footprint in the ashes of her life

She sighed a breath of Nordic wind, as sharp as any knife

And sprinkling that mystic dust softly o’er her eyes,

She prayed an end to solitude; to see a new sunrise.


 

© Marion Grace Woolley 2011

 

 

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