Wintry Poem in Springtime: “Chronology”

Martin_Johnson_Heade_-_Two_Owls_at_Sunset

Image by Martin Johnson Heade, in the Public Domain

Many a year ago this poem was published in a now-defunct (from what I can tell) journal called RIM Magazine. I still like it, so I thought I’d dust it off and share it with you. Might be a little at odds with the season, but then again, one can have a wintry mood, even in spring.

 Chronology

© Lisa E. Coté

When I was seven years and seven days
the owl of time with beatless wings
flew down, sunk its talons
into my shadow’s heart,
and made me an old woman.

See the ivory tower past the ridge
of soft pink granite, by the foaming
mouth of the sea? It’s made of a
giant’s tooth, carved by a dwarf,
polished by wind and water.

The old woman lives there,
looking out for signals.
She sits by the westward window,
knitting the night.

She takes a hedgehog’s bristle, rowan’s
berries; a lock of hair from the infant,
a plait of the old man’s beard.
She wraps them all in a white shawl,
talisman against bitter weather;
splint for the lame white hare.

When I am seven ages gone,
pull my body from the
sunless bog; make from my skin
a set of traveler’s boots, a saddle
for a black mare, a pouch
for silver coin. Stretch the rest of me
into a kettle drum.

Grind my bones and drink them as a tea;
then I’ll live another age in my own skin,
and you’ll live another age in me,
and know how to winnow grain and speak to crows,
and make friends with winter.

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