Incantation #14: An Application to the Season
by Susannah Mandel
Up in New England, people like to say that after solstice comes a deeper cold, the heart of winter following the slow return of daylight. (What they really say in fact fits into two short pithy lines, but I can't make that scan into blank verse. So let it go.) The point — and there is one — is that the frozen eye of winter lies in January, not December. Not December, mind you, when we light the lamps and deck the pines and windows to ward off the gods of night and darkness, and the wolf come out to eat the sun, and who-knows-what — all those great frozen figures that the Norse and Teutons tried to keep away with lights and fires, and the wicked spirits that the Romans scared away with noisy feasts on Saturnalia. The upshot is, December's a well-guarded month, lit up and circled round with fires. After that is when the real midwinter dark sweeps down. The freezes come, the snow, the grim black ice. To make things worse, people take down their lights and throw away their trees, just at the point when we could use them most! Ennui sets in. We start to get worn down. We're starved for light. We can't believe that spring will ever come again. And to add insult to it all, we have no more bright, cheerful holidays scheduled to help us through! — except for that depressing shambles called Valentine's Day, known as the leading cause of suicide just after Christmas. Which is why — although all things told, January's not so bad as winter months go — long before the end has heaved in sight, my patience has run out. One knows that February lies ahead, and that we should expect more dark, and cold, and that the wolves and frozen deities won't beat their way back home until late March. (that is, if we are lucky)... all the same, I miss the flowers, and I want the leaves, and all the little winds and singing birds and pink light in the evenings. That is why I'm turning now to you. Oh, season, come! This cold's gone on too long. From here on in, you'll find me hanging out my window, eyes fixed on the east. I'm waiting for the world to come back into warmth and presence, and for you to coax us out under the sky again. I'm sick of winter. I have marched through snow, I've frozen, I have bundled up, I've sat up late and written odes to ice and wind, and chilled myself into sublimity. I'm calling to you now: Come back, bring back the sun and all the music, thaw the ground and my sad heart. I'm waiting here for you, And I am ready for it to be spring.
Susannah Mandel says: My poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Strange Horizons, Sybil's Garage, Peter Parasol, and Lady Churchill's Rosebud Wristlet, among others. My short fiction is forthcoming in Shimmer and in the Canadian anthology Escape Clause, and my speculative flash fiction appears regularly at DailyCabal.com. I am a graduate of the Clarion East workshop. I also write a regular column for Strange Horizons on the fantastic in pre-modern literature.
About myself: I hold degrees in English literature and in comparative media studies from Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. I have lived in Boston, northern France, and, most recently, Philadelphia. I have worked in teaching, translation, editing, research and linguistics (as well as a brief stint in pastry retail).
I like, among others, Spenser, Yeats, Tennyson, Emily Dickinson, and Sir Thomas Wyatt the Elder. I subsist largely on apples, to which I have written a trattato d'amore. Unfortunately, I cannot appreciate raspberries due to the way the tiny seeds get stuck in my teeth.
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