They wake in the small hours in the country house, long miles from Hudiksvall.
Moonlit snow lies thick. Dark pines shelter the still garden, their shadows lie
elongated, spear-head sharp, on crystal whiteness. Dawn comes late.
Always dark here, except for a few brief hours. A wind is blowing hard
against the house, scattering the roof-top snow. He rakes the stove,
takes outside the soft, white, silken silt of ashes,
which whirl like genii, skywards from the ash-pile’s drifted hoard.
They stoke the fire, let soft flames fill the room with red-gold homeliness.
Darkness returns, lies purring deeply round the house, a sleek, black cat,
whose dense fur drinks the light. Wind drops, flakes fall softly all the night.
She opens the door, in half-light, sees that grey ashes lie- grey ashes?-
a sullen pall of lead on snow, the trees are dusty spirits in the gloom.
What is this fungal ash-fall, foul as sick-room breath?
So far from human life, no signal on their phones, car engine dead.
And so they walk. Pale light returns, their footprints ink-black,
deep as eyeholes in the skull of some huge, fallen beast,
the fringe of pines forever on their right, the distance never getting less.
Across the endless, ash-strewn snow, their shadows, doppelgangers, stalk their steps.
Fiona Clark writes poetry, playscripts, short stories, and is currently engaged in writing a novel. Her work focuses on nature and human relationships with nature, mythology, history, the paranormal, and lives of transgressive women. She is lucky enough to live in the beautiful county of Suffolk, UK, which is steeped in history, mythology and ghost stories. Sometimes, as in this poem, she uses what might be ghostly or surreal experiences to hint at ecological issues, together with states of fixation in the human psyche.