Poems, Songs, Stories

Winter Solstice: A Poem

I wrote this poem in 2019, revised it a little over the years, submitted it a few places with no luck, and then just kind of gave up on it. I like it, though, and today’s prompt for the Rattlecast was to write a poem about winter solstice, so I’ve decided to post my old one here. It’s basically a play-by-play of the shortest day of the year in Alaska, which in my area equates to about 4 hours of daylight. I wrote most of this poem in real time, so it’s long, and that’s one reason I didn’t read it on the show.

Enjoy!

Winter Solstice

I.

The morning starts black,
and it seems too dark for waking,
but I open the blinds anyway,
and await the light,
book in hand…

Chapter after chapter proceeds
until the sky has brightened,
and I look up to see that dusty periwinkle
lidding the pale-yellow space
above the mountains…

Time for coffee. My partner still sleeps
and the air outside is a brisk three degrees,
but the chill has not invaded our home.
Frost covers the grass, but no snow,
which ices the dawn with unease…

I’ve sipped my too-hot wake-up call,
extinguished the lamp prematurely
in anticipation of the sunrise,
set 10 minutes from now,
according to Google.

The seconds tick by slowly
as I hunger for some unearthly sight
of that glowing orange orb
beyond the barren birch trees,
the periwinkle above now tinged with pink…

Here it comes, I think, it’s time!
and I step out onto my porch to
get a better look, but still Helios hides,
a sliver of moon hanging high
in the night sky to the west…

My partner stirs, wakes, emerges from the bedroom,
wonders why I’m just sitting there in the dark,
and I wish I had more to give him
than a half-finished poem
and a delayed morning…

My impatience intensifies
at Apollo playing coy,
and I grumble,
you’re late, winter sun
you’re late.

Half an hour later,
the ridgeline is layered in gold
but still I wait
for the source
to reveal itself…

II.

My partner readies for work
with play, oblivious
to the importance of this day
the significance
of the approaching light.

I help myself to a spoonful of cookie butter
(we’re out of bread)
preheat the oven for yesterday’s breakfast
(we couldn’t finish six servings between the two of us)
and watch the window for evidence
the sun will really rise…

Ah! At last!
The smallest strands of clouds are lit so brightly
on our mountainous horizon
it’s nearly impossible to look at them
and not be blinded by their beauty…

The egg cakes go in the oven.
I’ve nearly finished my first cup of coffee,
indulged in two more scoops of decadence,
checked my email & social media accounts,
discussed the Christmas menu

and finally, there it is,
that beacon of life
leaving spots in my vision,
flooding the room with light…

I take a few pictures,
turn off the oven timer
and prepare for the onset of a new season:

The day is nigh, and tomorrow
the sun will come sooner.

III.

Afternoon, on my way to an appointment,
and I notice the sun was never
more than a thumb’s width
above the tree-line;
it’s a shame,

I think, while driving:
I’m forced to block out the rays
beaming in my window
to keep from causing
an accident…

The rescue vehicles are out
and I’m reminded
of the summer’s drought —
how easily ignored, that lack of precipitation,
in the dead of winter…

I’m thirsty, but warm,
I realize, and resist
the urge to lick
my already chapped lips
with my quiet tongue.

IV.

3:21 p.m., Palmer, and the waning
has already begun, the sun sunk
below the Chugach,
my hair freshened
for the evening’s revelry…

I consider the word ‘pagan,’
its unassuming definition—different
from the major world religions—
contrasted with the severity of its synonyms:
“heathen” and “infidel”…

But these days,
holidays don’t mean what they used to,
can be what we want,
celebrate our togetherness
and survival:

I learned the Greek gods aren’t dead
to everyone in their homeland,
and though it’s mere mythology
in my mind, my heart
is romanced by the idea
of ancient stories sustained
by the devout (or the superstitious),
coming to life when least expected.

V.

Ten minutes after sunset,
in a well-lit coffee shop,
I recognize I’m ending the day
as I began it — sipping caffeine,
keeping myself awake for what’s to come…

There are fewer clouds now —
more people —
but otherwise,
the evening sky is the same
as the morning’s…

The symmetry of this cycle
sparks more affection in me
for this time of year
than I believe I’ve ever had
for Earth’s revolution ’round the sun…

I’m reading again, too,
about a man trying to end his life
over and over, failing to let go
of the need to help people,
to set the world straight —

There are all kinds of December beauty.

VI.

My ears ring from the café sounds
as I slink out for fresh air
and a clearer glimpse of the closing day;
my hands almost burn on the cold door handle
but the Christmas lights are on in the street…

This is twilight, bordering on dusk—
and then the blue is here,
soaking in the black,
preparing the stars for arrival.
I write a letter to my great aunt…

The indigo lasts longer
than I thought it would—holds out
as if expecting a reversal

which will come, eventually,
but not this evening.

VII.

Five o’clock. It’s dark now,
but the night is young,
and Alaska doesn’t slow
in the absence of the sun.

Copyright © 2021, Caitlin M.S. Buxbaum

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