The shortest day. Men slumber heavily,
Rising belatedly from their own must;
The brief hours pass in twilit lethargy:
How bitter is the sharp air’s Hades taste.
The flint church broods among its dead, their stonesSlewed beneath burdensome ivy; wind wreathes
The graveyard, polishing to corpse-grey tones
The folded frosty grass and ice-thin leaves.
A stark oak with its heart’s-vein branches bearsA derelict nest like a wart; below,
The densely-armoured holly, dour, outstares
The swart yew at whose trunk no plant will grow.
Among the graves a barrel-chested robinChides the rummaging blackbirds. At sundown
Magpies in the frost-hung willow come mobbing –
Their clatter stilled by mist fading to fawn.
A yelping bark: a watchful fox appears,Scabby-brown and thin. A house-fed tabby
Sneaks to safety. A man with cold-pinched ears
Considers the pocked stone of a tomb, webby
With rotted bindweed. Ah, the dead will shiverTonight! The sun, apricot-small, resiles
Beneath roofs. Ice-film drifts in the river.
What fraught silence, what darkness; bead-hard frost fills
Hollows. In such nullity, how will birthForce passage through the stiff, refusing earth?
====================© December 2012