Good Henry’s mother is leaving,

lowered by a rope from a castle wall,

barefoot into the snowy night.


Three girls holding distaffs lifted me from the tomb,

set me on this tightrope thread and tied me to the cutting edge of fate.

The raging and the raving of this exquisite sanity

turns me over under eiderdowns

and sucks the blood from my quivering cheeks.

Fingertips blush as they touch along the spines of the Penguin Classics

where Ariadne left a knot

in my throat.


In a deep frozen albescent desert

the slow fall of noiseless hooves

beneath heavy skies.

Tall sparse dark-limbed trees

stand brittle and statuesque in their aloneness.

Grey-eyed Henry rides to York,

red hair dusted with snow,

along one of the long brown cart runnels

on a northern highway thick with white,

past snowbound villages stranded and half submerged.

He ignores woodsmoke, shrill cries and foggy whispers in the rearguard.

Poor Henry … His heart is at Woodstock and his head is in France.


Dark-haired girls with blue fingers and whalebone complexions

scuttle and skid past me in the alleyways.


Sky-coloured gulls circle like phantoms above the lamplighter

drunk on Tuscan wine.


He has slipped up on the frosty cobbles and sits upon the ground.

His laughter is most discomforting.


The history master is running across the quadrangle in a blizzard,

his coal-coloured gown is speckled like a swallow’s egg.


A snowball has hit me on the back of the neck.

I brush the powder from my sleeve

and pull out long wedges of snow from inside my collar with my fingers.


As a little chunk of ice slithers down my spine

a longhaired girl wrapped in fur and wearing woollen gloves

overtakes me at the bus stop and offers me a sweet.


Two layers of socks and a wellington boot for each foot,

long thick scarves wound under our noses and around our stinging ears.

White sheets hang stiffly in the snow,

a carol singer pulls off one of her gloves with her teeth

and reaches for a handkerchief.

From upstairs comes the sound of the peeling of sticky tape

and the rustle of Christmas paper.

We explore new regions of the earth today,

we cross into fresh dimensions,

there is no longer an horizon.

Children are running in packs – wave after wave down the white hillsides,

others are writing their names in the riverbanks

or are rolling huge glistening boulders through the drifts,

sledges sweep and tumble into new realities … conversation is lost.

words and cries of excitement become separated and sharp in the immense silence,

rainbow glister is dancing on an exposed area of pavement outside the co-op.


Clarion, lute and tambour

and all the mirth of old England.


A feast at Windsor on St. Stephen’s day.

The king is in his coloured hose

stalagmites frozen to his head.

The mayor and aldermen are wearing their scarlet

and their new round-toed shoes

with cake and sprigs of holly.


“Attend” cries the herald

richly robed in cloth of gold.

He sounds his mace upon the tiles.

The whole company look up from perry and mince-pies …

acrobats and fire-eaters leap across the tables,

jongleurs trample in the Yule ashes and sing of love and death,

cooks in their aprons light candles and lay cards in the cellar.

Everyone rises to the floor – shouting and spinning dizzily abroad.

An emperor (armed and well-mounted) rides into the hall calling for sack,

the king and queen of Spain kiss among the turrets,

three French princes share a bowl of custard,

maidens dance in the gallery

chiming long strings of bells with hammer blows.


The salts are empty,

the silver cups are upturned

and all the doors are jammed with snow.


A day’s ride away in a lonely chapel

the queen has lit a candle for the king.


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