Welcome to The Coffee Shop, just for you early risers
on Monday mornings. This is an Open Thread forum,
so if you have an off-topic opinion burning a hole in
your brainpan, feel free to add a comment.
“I heard a bird sing in the dark of December.
A magical thing. And sweet to remember.
We are nearer to Spring than we were in September.
I heard a bird sing in the dark of December.”
― Oliver Herford
Winter has arrived in the Northern Hemisphere: the summer birds left some time ago for the warmth of southern climes, trees are bare, and in the coldest places, the first snow has fallen. The natural rhythm of Life is slowing down – it’s only humans who keep on racing, trying to catch the Future. The planet’s other land and sky dwellers are settling down for a winter’s nap.
by Robert Louis Stevenson
Late lies the wintry sun a-bed,
A frosty, fiery sleepy-head;
Blinks but an hour or two; and then,
A blood-red orange, sets again.
Before the stars have left the skies,
At morning in the dark I rise;
And shivering in my nakedness,
By the cold candle, bathe and dress.
Close by the jolly fire I sit
To warm my frozen bones a bit;
Or with a reindeer-sled, explore
The colder countries round the door.
When to go out, my nurse doth wrap
Me in my comforter and cap;
The cold wind burns my face, and blows
Its frosty pepper up my nose.
Black are my steps on silver sod;
Thick blows my frosty breath abroad;
And tree and house, and hill and lake,
Are frosted like a wedding cake.
“Winter-Time” from A Child’s Garden of Verses by Robert Louis Stevenson – Simon & Schuster 1999 reissue edition
Robert Louis Stevenson (1850 – 1894) Scottish novelist, poet, essayist, and travel writer, best known for his novels Treasure Island, Kidnapped, Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde and his children’s poetry collection A Child’s Garden of Verses.
There’s a Certain Slant of Light (258)
by Emily Dickinson
There’s a certain Slant of light,
Winter Afternoons –
That oppresses, like the Heft
Of Cathedral Tunes –
Heavenly Hurt, it gives us –
We can find no scar,
But internal difference –
Where the Meanings, are –
None may teach it – Any –
‘Tis the seal Despair –
An imperial affliction
Sent us of the Air –
When it comes, the Landscape listens –
Shadows – hold their breath –
When it goes, ’tis like the Distance
On the look of Death –
“There’s a Certain Slant of Light” from The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson – Pantianos Classics, 1924 edition
Emily Dickinson (1830-1886) American’s best-known woman poet and one of the nation’s greatest and most original authors, lived the life of a recluse in Amherst Massachusetts. She wrote nearly 1800 poems, ignoring the traditional poetic forms prevailing among most of the other poets of her day. The extent of her work wasn’t known until after her death, when her younger sister Lavinia discovered her cache of poems.
First Winter Rain
by Matsuo Bashō
First winter rain –
even the monkey
seems to want a raincoat.
by Matsuo Bashō
a world of one color —
the sound of wind
“First Winter Rain” and “Winter’s Solitude” from Bashō: The Complete Haiku – Kodansha International 2013 edition
Matsuo Bashō (1644–1694) is widely regarded as the greatest master of haiku. He is undoubtedly the Japanese poet best-known outside of Japan.
by Gail Mazur
In the warming house, children lace their skates,
bending, choked, over their thick jackets.
A Franklin stove keeps the place so cozy
it’s hard to imagine why anyone would leave,
clumping across the frozen beach to the river.
December’s always the same at Ware’s Cove,
the first sheer ice, black, then white
and deep until the city sends trucks of men
with wooden barriers to put up the boys’
hockey rink. An hour of skating after school,
of trying wobbly figure-8’s, an hour
of distances moved backwards without falling,
then—twilight, the warming house steamy
with girls pulling on boots, their chafed legs
aching. Outside, the hockey players keep
playing, slamming the round black puck
until it’s dark, until supper. At night,
a shy girl comes to the cove with her father.
Although there isn’t music, they glide
arm in arm onto the blurred surface together,
braced like dancers. She thinks she’ll never
be so happy, for who else will find her graceful,
find her perfect, skate with her
in circles outside the emptied rink forever?
“Ice” from Zeppo’s First Wife: New and Selected Poems by Gail Mazur – © 2005 by The University of Chicago
Gail Mazur (1937 – ) is from Massachusetts, and graduated from Smith College. She has published several collections of poetry, including They Can’t Take That Away from Me (2001), a finalist for the National Book Award. She and her husband, artist Michael Mazur, founded Artists Against Racism and the War in 1968. In 1973, she founded the Blacksmith House Poetry Series in Harvard Square, which became a meeting place for poets, with weekly readings by both locals and internationally known poets. She is Distinguished Senior Writer in Residence in Emerson College’s graduate program and has served for many years on the Writing Committee of the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown.
by Walter de la Mare
Clouded with snow
The cold winds blow,
And shrill on leafless bough
The robin with its burning breast
Alone sings now.
The rayless sun,
Day’s journey done,
Sheds its last ebbing light
On fields in leagues of beauty spread
Thick draws the dark,
And spark by spark,
The frost-fires kindle, and soon
Over that sea of frozen foam
Floats the white moon.
“Winter” from The Collected Poems of Walter de la Mare – Faber & Faber 1986 edition
Walter de la Mare (1873–1956) was a prolific English poet and writer with a vivid gift for storytelling. He was a master of atmosphere, especially eerie emanations and ghostly visitations.
A Widow in Wintertime
by Carolyn Kizer
Last night a baby gargled in the throes
Of a fatal spasm. My children are all grown
Past infant strangles; so, reassured, I knew
Some other baby perished in the snow.
But no. The cat was making love again.
Later, I went down and let her in.
She hung her tail, flagging from her sins.
Though she’d eaten, I forked out another dinner,
Being myself hungry all ways, and thin
From metaphysic famines she knows nothing of,
The feckless beast! Even so, resemblances
Were on my mind: female and feline, though
She preens herself from satisfaction, and does
Not mind lying even in snow. She is
Lofty and bedraggled, without need to choose.
As an ex-animal, I look fondly on
Her excesses and simplicities, and would not return
To them; taking no marks for what I have become,
Merely that my nine lives peal in my ears again
And again, ring in these austerities,
These arbitrary disciplines of mine,
Most of them trivial: like covering
The children on my way to bed, and trying
To live well enough alone, and not to dream
Of grappling in the snow, claws plunged in fur,
Or waken in a caterwaul of dying.
“A Widow in Wintertime” from Cool, Calm, and Collected: Poems 1960-2000, © 2001 by Carolyn Kizer – Copper Canyon Press
Carolyn Kizer (1925-2014), American poet, essayist, and translator. In 1946, Kizer married Stimson Bullitt, the scion of a wealthy Seattle family, and had three children in quick succession. During this time, she nearly stopped writing poetry. They divorced in 1954. Kizer became the first editor of the journal Poetry Northwest (1959-1964). Her first poetry collection, The Ungrateful Garden, was published in 1961. Through the State Department, she got a job teaching in Pakistan (1964-1965), then was the first director of literary programs for the National Endowment for the Arts (1966-1970). She won three Pushcart Prizes, the 1985 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry for Yin, and in 1988 she won both the Theodore Roethke Memorial Poetry Prize, and the Robert Frost Medal.
The Darkling Thrush
by Thomas Hardy
I leant upon a coppice gate
When Frost was spectre-grey,
And Winter’s dregs made desolate
The weakening eye of day.
The tangled bine-stems scored the sky
Like strings of broken lyres,
And all mankind that haunted nigh
Had sought their household fires.
The land’s sharp features seemed to be
The Century’s corpse outleant,
His crypt the cloudy canopy,
The wind his death-lament.
The ancient pulse of germ and birth
Was shrunken hard and dry,
And every spirit upon earth
Seemed fervourless as I.
At once a voice arose among
the bleak twigs overhead
In a full-hearted evensong
Of joy illimited;
An aged thrush, frail, gaunt, and small,
In blast-beruffled plume,
Had chosen thus to fling his soul
Upon the growing gloom.
So little cause for carolings
Of such ecstatic sound
Was written on terrestrial things
Afar or nigh around,
That I could think there trembled through
His happy good-night air
Some blessed Hope, whereof he knew
And I was unaware.
“The Darkling Thrush,” from The Complete Poems by Thomas Hardy (Macmillan, 1976)
Thomas Hardy (1840-1928), renowned English novelist and poet, was born in the village of Higher Bockhampton in the county of Dorset. Best known for his novels: Far from the Madding Crowd; Tess of the d’Urbervilles; The Return of the Native; and Jude the Obscure. When Hardy died, his ashes were enshrined in the Poets’ Corner of Westminster Abbey, but his heart was buried with his family.