Green Valley Christmas
We have to go back,
We do, my love
And perhaps you feel it is the same old ground
That I have led you on before:
The narrow hedged lanes, views of the Vale,
Iron age hill fort and burial mound,
But like Yule that is upon us now,
It is a cold and thrilling remade vow,
Of lovers vows, of poet’s vows
Of the winter season to us all.
Each time, on every different day
I take your mind’s eye’s hand
Hand written textbook of mystical geography in hand,
My pen sparkles and fizzes
As Roman Candle on Guy Fawkes Night
knowing it brings renewal and joy
and as is the way of my thought,
I have indeed begun before the start,
So take back this paper from your hand
And restart with an
and begin anew
And as display of what I’ve got
There was , my dear, and there was not….
Both brothers expected it
And they were not disappointed.
Heavy snow on Christmas eve
From dawn to around noon.
And the surrounding soundscape slipped from
Crunchy squelches, as black rutted frozen gateways
Had their ice sheaths broken and the wet mud beneath
Made the sound mud always makes
When sucking boots and shoes off feet,
To a pregnant silence, with all noise
As faint bells or chimes, clear distant and distinct.
All baser sounds sucked into white noise,
Leaving what is left, the angel’s share
As muted beauty for her and our ears.
“No panic, love,” firm elder brother smiled,
Remembering the Endeavour and White bears
Ardent’s nose quivered wolflike
Smelling at what the snow kept for him,
“Still a few sheep out in Laggers, coming , Sis ?
We’ll leave the dogs behind, eh,
Could do with a run.”
And while the Valley Master
Surveyed his winter preparations,
Sheep and hay, and cows and sileage
And saw that it was good.
A casual observer
,Maybe you and I on winter walk,
Would have seen a brown cloaked girl
Throw snowballs and romp
With a very wolf like great big dog.
And if we were not complaining too loud
About our feet, the cold, parents staying,
In short the usual Christmas fairey tale,
We might have heard the song she sung
We might have heard the spell she weaved
And seen the rustle in far trees
As she danced and sang on Christmas Eve
Here’s Holly for my lover’s heart
Here’s mistletoe for brother
Wrapped in ivy’s open weave
So love will not be smothered
Here’s thorn the dart that Loki threw
Here’s ash that hung our Lord
Here’s forest blessing to us all
And those who dine at our Yule board
As she sang and she danced
The big dog rolled in snow entranced
And four eyes are on us
,Two hazel, with hidden depths and two as amber flares,
On the hill path just
Heading for Woodmancote and the Valley road.
Silent thunderclaps send spindrifts of powdered snow skywards
All in my mind, or was it in yours too ?
Sweetheart, did you see that child clap her hands and the world stop ?
Sweetheart ,love, what is it ?
Yes it is she, of whom I wrote
I am not mad, you see her too.
You see her too.
We stare and words again trail away
That thing which cannot be seen is seen again
I’m sure we both look away in terror
Or maybe just shock
And Ardent once again stands by sister,
Mischief eschewed and now a humble welcoming man
“We’ll be a while, Sir Poet and companion,”
floats that voice from Valley floor
“Fetching a couple of stray ewes,
But take evening meal with us,
At the farmhouse, yonder.”
And starts to reel of directions
Alacrity whispers furiously in his ear
“You know where it is ,Sir, what you say ?”
You and Alacrity eye to eye across a valley
No animosity, just wonder
“Thank you ,friend, If I may call you that
We will be down and many thanks”
They scamper off through shallow snow
And we, stunned by fortune’s blessing,
Say such rubbish to each other as
“we wont stay for long “
“ are we dressed right”
“got a spare card in your bag ?”
Then give up on words
And kiss as reassurance in this spinning world
with reassuring passion
Ivy tendrils brush and caress us both
As we climb the style,
The one from our road down to their valley
And then slide downhill on our frozen coats
Towards that secret farmhouse in white hills.
Picking ourselves up on valley floor
Dusting snow out of clothes
And blowing warmth into hands,
Hands deep into pockets
I find a crumpled packet
And my knuckles crack.
I hold out my find in awe:
A golden ring and some frankincense
Gifts for the house at Yule
As we approach, in some trepidation, the door,
It opens wide and before we see Ernest,
Scrubbed and worsted suited
Hair wreathed in Holly as a crown
We smell cleaned wood and the smells of cooking:
Fresh bread and mulled cider
wrench small “aahs” from us both.
“Be welcome here again, Sir Poet
And companion too,
I have watched your mind from here a lot
So be welcome at our table
You too have dreamed our world,
Through reflections and your heart.
Our Poet friend quite likes you, it appears
So we all thought you should be here.”
Dare we Enter ? We think as one,
And “yes” come slowly to us
As the undream unfolds another ream,
And drags us into Delphic times.
The kitchen is not quite as I remember,
But dreams are fickle things;
There is much more darkness in dark corners,
But all else is swathed in winter Green:
Ivy, Holly,Spruce (for Wolf, he loves the smell),
And mistletoe on high.
Fresh bread, of course, upon huge and grainy table
Mulled wine and cider, hand patted butter,
Cedar smelling wooden bowsl awaiting filling,
And beeswax candles, painted red,
Make sweet smelling smokey light.
“Party Clothes” out host solemly intones
and, with a smile well hidden in deep set eyes,
hands you a scarlet riding cloak and hood,
and me a toga and a laurel wreath.
Ardent enters, White wolf pelted as a cloak
shakes hands with me,
But kisses you on both cheeks
For maybe a second longer than was polite.
“I miss my Queen”, he says, low voiced
“You look so like her in this light,
but when the weather breaks
when spring comes
when the first green arrives”
he pauses, for a moment sad.
I think you hug him ,yes, sure of that
And hold this beauteous man
In sudden clear affection
Until he pulls away
“we all have known some loss”
he says and smiles, cheeks teared,
“tears ?” you ask, he smiles “because..”
what reply we might have had,
or made to him, you or I,
sickening as memory lurches deeper into our hearts’ myth,
is broken by an opening door
and, candelbra first, miss Alacrity arrives,
Moss green dress, trimmed with emerald and teal,
And says to all
Are not to be stood on,
And that we are fools not to help ourselves,
But as is the way of Queens in their own realm,
She does things her way
And all obey
Cheeses, winter salads appear,
And a pottage pot,
From which comes the finest smell
And serves us all our soup,
Then sits down next to you
And says, as plain as the sun in summer,
“I’ve heard my dear friend loves you,
so I would also be your friend”.
I can neither hear nor remember
From where I am writing now
What deep and sweet places
Your conversations took,
But I can recall that recipes
And home made clothes,
Were not the meat of the matter.
Ernest’s Ravens, in festive mood,
Push holly berry’s with their beaks
down the table’s length
in wild and cawing race.,
then get serious with the farmhouse cat
scrabbling and squabbling for scraps
beneath the table.
The range kicks out dry heat,
Cold muscle knots unwind,
And after a mulled cider interlude,
The Master says
Coated, gloved once again,
As we two find ourselves
Stumbling through a whitewashed passageway
And reach the yard behind, and find
Circles and spirals of sawdust lain
Soaked in some oily agent.
We are alone, it appears, until
The barn door is kicked open from inside,
A Boom reverberates and distant rooks answer cawing,
And a black face walker of the night,
Hurls high a blazing pitchpine log
Raining and trailing sparks,
As the roughest sweetest tune
That ever an accordion fought and won
Slithers out of the barn behind
In gigantic coils and loops.
In an instant , blazing spirals on the ground,
As blazing log ignites the sawdust rune
And player and walker lead a dance
A wild dance, a delicate dance,
A madman’s dance, a perfect dance
Round and through all the spirals:
Heavy boots and bells
Clump and ring
And antlers worn on every head,
In some old language
As others leave the barn,
And follow the leader in the dance
But in every sacred, dirty dance
The perfection is shown by one unplanned event,
The leader bends and scoops,
Fast and direct in movement,
From the edge of fire,
A watching cat, a farm cat queen,
And throws him our way to catch.
“yours I believe” booms familiar voice
and a cat we know lands in our arms .
For a moment dancers, flames, the stars stand still
And that thing occurs again,
Nausea inducing, eyeball bursting change
Between us, but we do not hurl,
As in a moment we have our Cat,
Wild haired and lovely,
And agape with wonder,
“ I fell and tripped” she began
but stops herself
As the dance bursts out in renewed joy,
At two world’s power of three
And then they stop and speak,
Framed by a freeze in time and flames,
As if threatening us with murd’rous verse.
What Gods we have among us,
If we dare look, playing as hempen homespuns
So near the cradle of Greenwood’s Queen.
“Here be ,I The valley King
Part the flames I enter in,
I take My Valley to my heart
And will protect it from the dark
I have two Ravens here with me
Named after Thought and Memory,
If evil comes here in disguise
They’ll split its skin and eat its eyes”
“Here be I , half wolf ,half man
Half born in snow, half in England,
To fight, to die for love’s my thing,
So give me room, I enter in
Give me room to rhyme I say,
Love is strong, will have its day.”
“Here be I, sister of all,
I enter in and will not fall,
And though I fuss about my men
Above them I will rise again,
The sweetest ruler the world has seen
But tonight I am green valley’s queen”
So far so good, we three watch
Gods or myths at rustic play,
Some dark midwinter pastoral,
Acted out forever and a day,
Three players, musician,
in shadows more
To appear we feel,
And clutch each other in anticipation.
Round Cowsheds edge at a run
A horse’s skull on long black log black pole
Carried by one in black
Preceded by a man in red
Who leaps magnificently
Across the fire not once
But many times
To our cheers and appreciation,
But to silence from the players
He stops ,demands more adulation from us three
We give it, unabashed
And then he speaks,
With tones of snake and honey
“Here be I, Beelzebub
On my shoulder I carry a club
I love it when men for me shout
I enter in and bring them doubt
I bring the ague,cold and plague
Disease,despair and sullen rage
I bring bring them aches and biting pains
And tell them others are to blame
tonight’s my night, I am about
I’ll do such ill and cause such rout
Unless any one will throw me out”
A pause, we expect a comic fight
but nothing happens from our three,
And in this moment of growing doubt
The rattling nags head of a skull,
Leering lairy over his left shoulder
Seems to grin so wide.
I see the opening and enter in
Filling a gap between earth and them
Perhaps even showing off a bit,
To my dauntless redcloaked belles.
“Here be I, poet from another land
To fight the dark I’ll lend a hand,
I’ll be this Hallowed Eve’s St. George,
If I can borrow a trusty sword”
Ernest pulls back his cloak
And draws a silvered blade,
And hands it over
As lithe and shining as a trout,
His sister freezes as if horror
And Ardent says
He said the words
“All we can do is watch.”
And yes, dear reader,
I have bitten off the world,
And no slick wordplay
Or specious loving intent
Can guard me now,
Though I risk, in French, “en garde,”
My adversary, standing within his flames,
Draws a red sword, shakes his locks,
Maggots writhe and die in flames
And I advance,
Too deep in to back away,
But keep my end up for a bit,
And find that he fights with my strength,
So we are matched,
But he tires not.
I need more strength,
Look to you for love
To catch your eyes
And in that instant
The red sword strikes
And I,gasping in deep cold,
Trapped in ancient spell
The family can only cry
“A Doctor,A Doctor,
Is there a doctor in the house ?”
Expecting nothing now
But to fight for their valley
As they do every year
“A doctor ?”
Cloaked woman rises with a swagger
“Dear me, no, no call for him”
Her twin arises too,
Wild hair dancing with firelight
“By Hecate, can’t trust the men,
There’s only one thing we can do”.
A cackle .”In front of them ?”
“Of course, where else ?
It was his fault, but my desire
Is to hear more words
Taste more lips.
His journey doesn’t end tonight”
I am cold
Under cold stars
When warm hands
Warm lips and bodies
Naked in the burning rune,
Caress and ride me in the dark,
Cry and weep,
Scald me back from death with burning tears
With wet and hungry loins
With the gift of giving life.
I am no longer cold , adrift.
I am canopied by legs and tongues,
I become erect and feel more life
Than ever felt before.
I try to stand again,
But you two pin me to the floor
And further waves of heat,
Of love, of life come along
And come my way.
Just when it seemed to me
That I was dead again,
This time round from happiness,
The wise women stopped
And handed me the sword again.
“Carry on, stranger, “
They laugh and disappear
Back beneath their cloaks
Two blows and he is gone
Red and black running scared
Back behind the cowsheds
To their home in darkest slurry pit.
I am confused, words spin in and out of worlds
and I am made to hand back the sword
there is more singing,
Joyful now. Soprano, Alto, Descant as well
Daring the new snow falling to try harder
To be more beautiful,
To be more fair.
And for another year
We have all fought back the dark.
As the Gods and good return
to men and women on this day
,life gifted by two amazons
I start to laugh with warmer note
Than I had ever dreamed before,
And Mummers, family and friends
Drink deep and start another song,
As if oblivious of the last events,
Harmonising upwards, notes follow
The sparks of the still burning rune,
And snow flakes leave a route
There is still a path
Towards the clear and frosty stars.
All our heads look upwards
And spin in muzzy maze:
Of where we three are, had been,
And what we have seen and done today.
Alacrity sees our group, advances,
Lightly and delighted
Takes leaves from her basket,
And throws them on the embers.
She tells us that if we look hard
We may see new constellations:
And we look up and do,
As greenwood smoke surrounds us:
Reindeer, Wolf and Wildcat climb
To dance around Polaris’ winter shine.
She hugs us all with something of earth’s love
And whispers words to each of us,
Ones that we are not meant to share,
And bids us all, with silent prayer,
To grow, and dance, and love and share.
Our constelation stars explode within us
In brightest of bright heat and love,
And rubbing eyes we wake
In our own beds
With wreaths of laurel in our hair
Stars in our eyes
And snow still on our coverlets.
When I awoke
I found holly berries
Clenched in my palm.
How was it for you,
My dears ?