These December Woods
by Kate Falvey
A briar snagged
your deep blue hooded cloak
on the path to the weeping beech.
You thought it was a sign
of thorniness to come –
hidden, out of reach –
so you beseeched the scheming darkness
to let us pass in peace.
Arcing your sleeves of velveteen
into molten spills of trembling blue
and insubmissive loops of sheen,
you folded into motion,
chastening the chill,
eluding ice-slick brambles
and snares of tricky things unseen
while breathing spells into needling webs of frost
to stay whatever owned those flickering eyes
until we gained the skeletal disguise
and shelter of our ancient mother tree.
I track memory this December
by day in a peaceful wood
when doomful portents
are less treacherous but truer.
I follow your ghostly gliding to the beech
whose weeping housed our girlhood.
I mean to find our early secrets and the sources
of our coded incantations, broken charms
left on the air beneath the wild wintry arms
that held us as we dreamed up lives
and solemnized our vows to wed
us to our witchy and inconstant sisterhood.
This little giggle
goes into the pot
along with the swan shaped
hair barrettes you startled me with
one dull school day. And the burlap
and velvet wrapping for the swans,
the note you caligraphied on a swath
of rich rag paper: “For your lushness
of hair.” And I, who had no notion of
my hair as any special climate – just
as a forgone welter of inability to stay
clasped in a cautious braid.
So the potion needs a dash
of this brave wonder:
how nuisance became eminence
and ordinary brown was lit with
red-gold splendor overnight and
wooden swans painted a streaky white
floated regal in my memory
of such buoyant strange delight.