The Winter Queen
She came softly on the trailing edge
Of fevered dreams and sinking sleep,
Face a mask of opaque ice, her eyes
Blue-bright as a sunlit glacier.
Hair as soft as swan’s lost down
Filled with pearly Honesty and skeletons
Of Queen Anne’s Lace.
Her wreath was of frozen holly leaves
Dotted with berries of bloody red
And dusted with traces of white hoar frost
Like glitter on a Venetian mask.
Her clothes the rags of summer splendour
Faded by the autumn skies
And ripped to ragged ruin
By gales and snowstorms yet to come.
Around her throat withered rowan berries
And rock hard sloes dried to stone
The meagre treasures hanging still
Amid the shaking hedges here.
Her staff a shaft of blackthorn, bare
Of leaves but bearing thorns and buds
Hard and tight as clenched fists
Defiant of the clutch of cold.
Her voice was hoarse with winter storm,
Yet soft as a draught under my door,
Insistent and full of power
Commanding me to obey her words.
“The creatures of the wild will need
More food than my late sister did provide,
For my realm and season will persist
Past the time when buds should break.
Take my rowan beads, and hang them
Where the birds will feed
As signal that you will be their friend
Though my reign be far too long.”
I woke. Her touch upon my face
Turned skin to leaden hue like death.