January

breathing ice for air,
stalks bleached bone white,
earth hard as iron.

below, seeds dream of life,
in darkness
until light’s return.

doorway of the year, two-faced,
where past meets future,
death meets birth

and like a mother,
bearing hope,
out of darkness light returns.

I won’t be making a habit of putting poems on here, as I write very few, but decided to take the risk of putting up this one which came back to my mind when thinking about winter, the dead time of the year, the turn of the year and so on.

The words first came into my head while walking on Chorlton meadows in the early days of January 2010. It was the first of those very cold winters and we had temperatures of minus 18 in Manchester. The ground was hard as iron and all colour bleached from the landscape – beautiful, but bleak indeed for birds and animals looking for food and shelter.

I remember we were going down to our allotment twice each day because the water for the chickens kept freezing over. Each morning it was hard work opening the big metal gates at the site and trying to unlock frozen padlocks; and I used to think how crazy we were to be keeping chickens as a hobby at an allotment, pretending to be smallholders. And then I used to think how much I would like to live in the country so I could have the chickens in the back garden.

At the same time it was magical to be there early in the morning in all that cold and quiet; seeing if anyone else had been down and left footprints on the snowy paths; finding a spider’s web strung on the allotment gates, jewelled with ice.

And I was thinking of my mother when I wrote the poem as her birthday is in January.

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