December 21. Shortest day.
All walled in, I watch the windows
And the leaking sky, waiting for the last light
Of the waning year.
Deep, all-day dark.
Racing clouds and bedroom weather
A dark and hopeless time.
Finally the dog and I brave the cold
And hopscotch the spaces
Between farm-track puddles.
Nut-brown and spattered,
She half-heartedly retrieves
Beech branches I half-heartedly fling.
Noses leaf-mould, chews blackened conkers,
Stands solitary, senses scents
Then crashes through the shivering stubble
Following fox. Chasing hope.
We make one last loop as the half-light fades
And just then the last touches of winter-rose
Leak out of skirting clouds to brush the sheepfold walls
And the line of the horizon bleeds
Like a glorious, over-painted eighteenth-century canvas,
The old light-year is over, the new one begun.
And there is a spring in our step,
All the way home