A Day for Skating

This golden dawned morning
Is crisp and silent and still
Before the skaters come.

Slowly, they arrive in the early hours
Down the steps they go,
Skates slung over shoulders,
Until they reach the ice, below the city.
Their faces are happy and exuberant
Cold hands are warmed by steaming cups
Of cocoa and coffee and cider
Their noses pinkened in the frosty chill
And sugared from pastries gulped from paper wrappings.

As the morning stretches out,
The crowds grow
To fill the long snaking miles of ice.
They are brightly coloured in their warm clothes
As they coast along,
Voices raised in happy jubilance.
From their feet,
The sounds of metal on the cold roughness of the ice,
A hollow scrape-scrape
With each glide forward.
There are fast rhythms from the hockey players
Who swerve
And bob
And weave,
And from the kids who play tag
Until they slide, snowbound, with a swoosh of their snow pants.
A young child cries
“I can’t! I don’t wanna,”
While others fly by, calling
“Catch me if you can!” in glee.
Couples hold hands,
Gallant boys skate backwards, flirting,
Pulling timid girls along.
Voices, accents, languages mingle
French and English and Spanish and more.
Here, a young Russian girl, visiting for the first time,
There a Brazilian lady who has never seen snow, never skated before,
An older lady, her grey hair furling out behind her,
Brow furrowed in concentration as her husband skates circles around her smiling.
All together in this one space
Moving like a breathing organism
They darken the glowing white with their sheer numbers.

Ducking into a little inlet,
A creek in the summer, a quiet rink in winter,
We are protected from the wind by stately willows
And old stone bridges.
Here in the softening golden light of the afternoon
There are fewer people
They move in circles
Take time to stop and gaze up at the blueness of sky
Stand in groups and swap stories.

Back out we go, out into the crowds
Out to the smoky wood fires
The clusters of people
The smells of wet wool and frying batter and sugar and chocolate
And then, finally, tired and with aching legs,
Home,
As the Evening world fades to blue and indigo.

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