When I was little I read a novel called “A Lantern in Her Hand,” by Bess Streeter Aldrich. It was about a pioneer woman, surprise surprise (you wouldn’t think that there could be all that many pioneer woman books, but take it from me, there are) who homesteaded on the plains. The husband in that book has stayed with me lo these many years. His name was Will and he was so kind (and goodlooking). This book was one of my favorites ever, and my mother cried when I described the ending of it to her, in which the long-dead Will came walking back across a field. This lovely poem brought that whole book right back to me: the small worn paperback copy I had, the picture on the front cover, the scent of cut grass (I must have read it in summer), the love that man had for his wife.
Snowfall at Solstice
– Lianne Spidel
I wonder if this might be the night
when you decide to go, with snow
stippling the screen of your small window
and you snug in your chair, wound
in an afghan, full of shepherd’s
pie and the sugar cookie dunked for you
in tea. You are at peace. Listening, you
feel the soundless weight of this night,
starless, without sentinel or shepherd,
as heaven comes down to earth in snow
to level each crevice, seal each wound,
fill the cup of space outside your window.
The courtyard framed in the window
is all that remains of the world you
knew, a place where whiteness has wound
the tree with garlands heavy as night,
where there is no respite from snow,
no landmark to be seen by shepherds.
In young years, friends—winter shepherds
and maids—summoned you from any window
when the sky threw itself blue over snow,
over the ice of the Rideau. With them, you
learned ski trails curving into night
up the Gatineau, and every path wound
its way through some adventure, wound
magically toward one who would shepherd
you through cities on starless nights,
whose homecoming you awaited at windows,
who carried your furred boots for you
through seventy winters of snow.
He will find his way in winging snow,
white-haired, a woolen scarf wound
at his neck, coming from darkness to you
stooped but sure-footed as a shepherd,
an overcoated angel reflected in the window,
stamping from his shoes the snow, the night.
When you choose, take the shepherd’s arm, leave
the narrow window, walk safe with him by night
out where all stars are wound in snow.
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