Winter pauses

Wayfarer after dawn in forests of fog
(air misting but not raining) rest awhile

against this post

so cold the metal breathing crystal pores,
slow-fed vacancies pulsing glacial life


Ice, palely flat sky, mobius strip round
and round
            is all incipience
                                    of life
Intensities flummox the teeming earth,
meanwhile penumbra ebb and flow (the pace
of shade is quick)
                                    hasten to the copse
frost-forest thicket plural with yew veins


Crooked and free
the road that wanders out of sight,
beauty of not-yets
nested fragilely
for all or none

In time
            unburden the air—air
that wants this wanting, less and more than whole

            is need your need alone?

Nearby voices re-ravel addled thoughts
in quickening deluge to burst the bank,
perturbs mudlarker’s jaunt
                                    (young bowerbird)
Diamond-ring flotsam,
                                    old clay-pipe jetsam
all flows into the fold
                                    of liquid flux

Attend to the little ones,
heed well their times—
            loud whir of wings,
            or silent stone,
            or emmet’s inch
            or eagle’s mile

Our motley paces
                        weirdly tread


each particular a plexus
unsung world of delight

December shivers on

            and for all of an instant
            the thrill in the skin knows
            a flash of pale sky through canopies
            the shafting sun of other months
            to be equally radiant


as riverbank garnets
blown into thousands

finally irretrievable)


Petrific hapax
            fancies itself a monad
            divided phantom
            of a split-second vacuum

and cresting ice wants to outwit onrush
desiring permanence,
                                    once and for all

Industrious multiply each moment;
there is no royal road to easy rest

Dig in the heels
                        dig up the shards
                                                ice spray
loosed from the cut mouth of the chill river
            skin flinch, fluttering heart
or vital sign—aliveness craves those climes

Where is the traveller’s journey done?


Fear: eternity

clod of clay
or redwing’s nest
or circinate of fern
or diamond eye of silver birch


Know this: you were the one


and still to know thyself or god or worm
to scale the eagle’s heights or mole’s abodes
unspool futurity in perfect words
a human awful wonder of god


In regions slow with care unfurl these wants
these grievous harms
                                    ignite the painter’s eye
suffuse with meaning fingernails or scarves—
the forms of former times
                                    and soon the pain
becomes élan invents inventive life

Meanwhile we all rethunder on the banks,
hear murk intoning what you can’t believe

What did that dawn-dream mean?
                                                It passed too soon
Why can’t spondaic breath remember it?
The pulse
            the rush imaginal
                                    the kill
and thud of march thrown down upon the chalk-
pit slope he cries for healing,
                                    head in hands,
to leaden any hope of once-dreamt love

(Yet stirs this kindness:
a song of whiteflies glorying in vetch)

In infant joy
                                    I’ll cleanse the grit
and suck out splinters from the rutted palm
till, sapling-skinned and burnished,
                                                you arise


New road is brackened cool
            (low rustle,
eclogue untouched by civic cares,
or so it seems

Idling catches its breath,
and our thoughts are all
            of kind caress,
            cataractic warmth,
            or slumbrous rest

Still, need is fickle
                        won’t be nullified
nor satisfied,
            won’t stand still enough,
                                                long enough
nor tumble from the peak—
                                    sovereign erroneous!

Cruel winter pauses.

There’ll be time enough
for slumber,

only mind these fading twixt-light hours
crepuscular quantities
go not unheeded

In time make haste downriver,
but be sure to pause
where alder trees
cut ribbons from the still-
                                    purple sky

Caroline Anjali Ritchie is an Australian-born, London-dwelling writer and researcher. She is currently completing a PhD on the poetry and art of William Blake. Her poetry explores the relationship between language, nature, and the human mind, often with an emphasis on mental health.

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