Winter’s Preface

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With precision cold and measured,
Winter’s preface lays herself down.
She cloaks forests, covering the last hints of Summer’s life
as her crisp, grey splendour spreads
into every corner, bringing with it a new
stark identity, a majesty nigh invisible.

Shuttered windows render us invisible
until, emerging with steps carefully measured,
tentative, we chance to seek new
wonders hidden beneath hoar frost soft as down.
Think not that she is only a gloom which spreads
darkness, for to see her thus is to miss the paradox of life.

A flock of pigeons lifts, signalling life
has not yet fled, is not so brittle, nor invisible
to those who see. Flashing silver-grey, the flock spreads
wide; beautiful in unison, the birds land with measured
whispers upon the river flowing down
into a city waiting to be reborn, waiting to become new.

For this season gifts to us all a new
beauty. She in her own way births life,
at first, before her spirit becomes laden and weighted down
with a relentlessness so heavy that the joy of her becomes invisible.
Rejoice now, therefore, while the bare branches still reach for her with measured
fingers. They whistle a minor tune and it spreads

as her wondrous palette of muted colour spreads
from this single lineage of grey; new
shades burst forth ‘neath the sun’s measured
glow, exposing a hidden brightness and unexpected life,
sparkling upon all that has been invisible,
bringing to the surface all that had earlier been melted down.

She is elusive, this early Winter. I know I cannot hold her down
nor make her linger; when she begins to fade, when she spreads
her wings and prepares to fly, she will become invisible
to me once more. Then it will be time to find a new
joy, to embrace the next stage of life.
I wonder, though, how seasons can be measured.

Too many look down on her with a coldness measured
against her own chill, unable to see the invisible goddess beyond the crone. Her life-
giving virtues are not new but only a few celebrate her transcendent glory as it spreads.




A few weeks ago, Rowan encouraged me to try a sestina (Yeah Write is such a great place for helping writers to learn and grow!). I’ve been labouring at this one ever since. I probably could play with it and continue to edit it infinitely but at some point, you just have to let your creation go.


27 thoughts on “Winter’s Preface

  1. OK…I take back all those depressing things I said about winter!
    All joking aside, having lived in Alaska for many years, I love winter in ways that match the tone of this poem. A full, winter moon, on a quiet Arctic night will be the image that fills me if I am prompted to speak of beauty.

    • Oh, Maya, what a lovely mental image! I could write a whole other poem about that scene. My husband spent a lot of time over the period of 2 years doing work in the Northwest Territories. Though I never went with him (why!?), I have a very clear picture from everything he told me and what you’ve described fits very well with what he did. There’s also something about the hazy, filtered glow of a winter sun…

      • Yes, and the alpenglow!
        I forgot to mention that, like the respondent below, that my favorite line is “as her wondrous palette of muted colour spreads from this single lineage of grey;” I find it hard to believe, having read that line alone, that you haven’t experienced the Arctic! If your husband ever goes back…be sure to visit him…in the winter 🙂

  2. This is gorgeous, SL. Especially this stanza – “as her wondrous palette of muted colour spreads/ from this single lineage of grey; /new shades ….
    Also, I am with you on “transcendent glory.”

  3. Oh yay, you did it! This is so much harder than a tritina. I’m afraid I’m in the winter crone camp. I really hate being cold. It was freezing today and it’s only November 😦

  4. I really, really love this. As my kid has gotten older and less inclined to play outside in the snow, I’ve found myself getting the winter blahs more often. This is such a glorifying and gorgeous reminder of the beauty to be found at all times, for all of their myriad reasons. I’m going to save this to re-read as Ohio lumbers through this season.

    • Well you’ve made my day! I’m so honoured that you read that into what was a laborious but uplifting exercise. Though I did start this before the temperatures plummeted, I do love the winter – even the pre-snow brown/grey part. I’m glad that came across. Thank you for the very detailed and thoughtful comment 🙂

  5. I have never been a winter kind of guy but this is going to force me to look with new eyes. I hope to be in NM next month and the temps are already dropping below freezing there now at night so…?
    Very well done.

  6. I needed to read this. After last winter, I have been dreading the one to come — actually, the one that is already here as I look out the window and see all those variations on gray. Your lovely sestina, however, reminds me to look a little deeper and appreciate “wonders hidden beneath hoar frost.” Your hard work pays off in this homage. ❤

    • Thank you so much, Meg. It is so rewarding to hear that. What a challenge this was, but a fun one. And I really do love winter, especially early winter, though this early deep freeze thing was a bit of a shock!

  7. I love how you’ve presented the ethereal, elusive beauty of early Winter. You paint such a vivid picture. I’m almost (almost) convinced to like Winter. And I’m completely in awe of you for writing a sestina!

    • Thank you so much, Asha, especially for your awe 🙂 I’m convinced that as long as you dress properly and throw yourself out there, you can find things to enjoy about the season.

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