Nu sculon herigean I


Cold the stones and thrawn
ringing the stark skyline 
gritty with bird-droppings 
dead twigs.

Life waits in silence
in colours not yet born
the buds' nubs turned inward
furled in their dream
of wakening.

Frost splits the haws 
cuts ooze then freeze
berries harden to baubles 
breakable as glass.

Spiked trees ghost the black
armed with brittle icicles glittering and tinkling 
they fall as chandeliers, splinter 
the fragile air, shard
the ground.

The locked ice-mass grinds, grinds, then cracks
the loch from side to side, gashes black
the white packed ice: as gunshot
echoes in the ear. 

Grasses ticking dry and cold 
graze the delicate haunch, 
the shimmy of the passing deer 
dislodges spears of frost,
floats white soft dust down into the winter undergrowth.


In these late days 
the boar no longer grunts and roots the ground:
his red eyes fixed and furious
glimpse through the distance
a soulless winter: a futureplace 
bleak and empty with waste:
no kindred sitting in a ring
no song, no dancing
no quiet hands urged toward the orange, 
no skin on skin, roughened, touched and warm.

In these late days 
the stones stand cold, withdrawn, 
intransigent as granite.

The wind moans in derelict rings 
cored, neglected, the land worn
with scrapings and scatterings:
ashes of an empty hearth.

We choose to pause, this late hour,
to contemplate the stars' bright fire:
a bright life still is burning 
deep within the stretching black.

Our wide eyes fixed and curious
glimpse through the distance 
back beyond our modern air -
our ancestry still wheeling there -
look back at what we left and weep
for what we had we did not keep.


We link our thoughts to forge a chain, a circle
round our fire's homeground.

These links we forge with ancient blood
to help us burgeon in the dark 
expand with hope that not all souls are lost, 
that some still are capable 
of giving warmth that climbs the bone -

for in this depth of cold and white
within its height of terror and of old those pains of fear -

it warms us as it dies this old and barren year
its tarnished force converging with the rising curve:
the young and fresh ascendant, iridescent year
gilds our torn world's rim
and all its ills
with bright orange fire.

And the failing candle-flames 
we nurtured in our hearts
in blackest former days of this year's pains 
will wax not wane

and as the Great Wheel turns again
our feet will touch the ground:
all dizzying stilled 
all stance sound.

Through the frozen air we hear
a lone bird sprinkling a song of orange and red:
a song of stirrings that we cannot see 
but in our marrow know 
as we have always known.

Bone-deep the spark ignites the inner flame 
to courage and to purpose in new life.

This living fire without - 
whose warmth we gladly feel this night -
is emblem of the unseen hand that strikes the flint:
whose breath we breathe 
whose touch we bear 
whose design engineers us here.


And so we stand - 
our ring a heralding within a greater ring revolves 
this one small chain 
this one small fire 
symbolic of the shudder in the bud
the loosing of white's vice
the haws that bleed renew to life
and thawing of the water pools and spreads
as winter's grip releases.

We feel the grass is softening to palest green
sap rising in the trees unseen
and we revere this old year's turn 
as we face the new reborn 
and we wonder at this turning and returning
of the Sun in Capricorn.

The Wheel draws back - its judder and its jerk 
reverberate within the core of living thought
to pierce the dream of wintering -

this is the wake-up call:

the trigger that betokens scent and seasoning  
as growth begins to pepper earth with green.

These flames spring 
from ancient roots: from bone-burning
but for this forge of our four hearts 
our bonfire feeds on wood - 

its orange surge and rise is
the votive offering we raise 
to the giver of our lives.

on this Yuletide night
we prize this blaze of gladdening.

composed in celebration of the Winter Solstice
Nu Sculon Herigean
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