NORTH, EARLY DECEMBER

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Let me down easy

the way hints of winter
fall exquisitely today
scattering icy lacy flowers
from a cloud bouquet

flutter, waver just a bit
unhurried and unworried
to get on with it.

A deeper cold will come
but stay its harder hand
let play a little longer
the november grey indefinites

let me down easy.

The longest night is still ahead
weighs heavy in the apprehension
threatening dismay

let me go haltingly into its
frozen moonlit desolation
tempered by the touch of
something of its opposite

knowing I am anyway
to be let down, I pray

let me down easy.
.
.

NORTH, EARLY DECEMBER

66 responses »

  1. I know there are many ways to interpret this, but it took me back to the prairies in Saskatchewan, first snowfall and forgetting what was coming in the ensuing months.

    • I wonder if it’s the dark that really gets to me. It’s just now 4:00 pm here and already my lights are on and it’s almost black outside. That corner you mention isn’t too far away, and somehow the very idea of it is usually a help, even if there’s only a minute increase of light for a while. Thanks for coming by to read, Karen!

  2. I hope this is a whimsical premonition, Cynthia (i.e., I hope you are well). Weren’t we talking about Benjamin Franklin the other day? In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes. I think we were talking about lightning rods though. That kind of talk is sure to keep one young! Personally I like to procrastinate, so it’s a habit of mine to always put death off till later–a bit like never wanting to clean out the garden shed.

    • Not to worry, my friend; I am well (at least physically!) and I do agree that talk about Ben Franklin and lightning rods is quite relevant to a dreadful feeling of oncoming irrelevancy. I like to procrastinate, too—why else would I tend to read or write a poem rather than wash the breakfast dishes? Death, however, is something I ponder all the time, though, like you, I am putting it off ’til later. I love how you always make me laugh; a sure tonic for whatever ails!

  3. At the risk of sounding more (or less) erudite than I am:
    This is a meeting of the French rondeau and the Negro Spiritual. “Let me down easy” is pure American voice. And then “the way hints of winter/ fall exquisitely today/ scattering icy lacy flowers/from a cloud bouquet” is as ancient as Machaut and as contemporary as neo-Debussy! I thought it was beautiful in it’s longing and fearfulness… I loved it, Cynthia.

    • What a wonderful comment, Bruce. I don’t know much about erudite or not, but I know you are an accomplished musician and am thrilled by what you say on that score. When I was writing this poem I wondered about the use of “easy”, which should be “easily” if it were to be correct grammar, but that’s where the colloquial American voice won out. And the Machaut/ Debussy is a treat to hear about since I am fascinated by the possibilities of the rondeau for poetry written now. Longing and fearfulness abound; this is not my favorite season, and the Black Dog is often at my door…Thank you so much!

  4. It is so hard to read and fully comprehend this is your reality when the heat is so intense and the pets tussle for space on the [puppy’s] cooling mat………… I hope you will be let down lightly and easily this winter dear Cynthia – or even better, not at all 🙂

    • I may have said it before, but one of the things I treasure about blogging is the awareness that the world has more than one hemisphere! In fact, this poem was initially titled “Early December” and I added the word “North” because of that new awareness. Hope you and Orlando and Siddy are keeping cool. Cats, especially are smart about finding the coolest place; one of mine always goes to lie under the toilet tank in hot steamy weather!

  5. This is one of the loveliest poems I have read recently. I think it’s the companion to your tulip poem–this being physical world, that one being spiritual. I also think Bruce is spot on about the language (there’s something about your poems that makes me notice structure more). The ‘let me down easy’ makes it more physical and immediate.

    • Thank you, Lisa! That is an interesting idea…of the tulip poem’s being a companion of this one. I’ m really glad you can tune into the structure. For many years, as a student of poetry, I tried to figure out how and why poets were deciding where one line stops and another one starts…there are so, so many possibilities, in a mode called “free verse.” Given that it is the unit of the line, which is a prime difference between poetry and prose, I was confused—especially when people started using center-justified lines so a piece of writing would “look like” a poem. I guess I decided to explore traditional, formal poetry to see what it had to offer, and to find ‘the music’ once again [The music disappeared because it was all too predictable and singsongy, as well as phony and restrictive with regular end rhymes….and then all we had left for meter was “rap” which is a kind of monotony of its own.] I took my cues from some of the essays and letters of Robert Frost, and started listening more carefully to ordinary speech in English; I discovered that it is most often iambic and the space of a comfortable breath is about five (pentameter) feet. Iambic pentameter made real! Long story short, I am now addicted to exploring formal verse and how to tweak it a bit for today. See how your most interesting comment set me off?!

      • Interesting how you came to explore form! I too have wondered how to break a line, but I never focused on different types of rhyme schemes or meter–not that a few people didn’t try to teach me. Now that I am older and have read more, I see it’s part of the language used, integral, when chosen well, to the meaning and tone. But I remain ignorant for now, though noticing is putting me on the way to enlightenment (eventually).

  6. You’ve hit a nerve here. It is only in the last few years that I have felt this… dread? this uneasiness about the length of time to the longest night. It makes little sense as most of our winter cold comes after. So it is an intellectual anxiety, relieved by the promise of more light, but weighed down by our own bitter months of January, February and March. It is even more nonsensical as our winters barely merit the name these days. I am sitting comfortable in an unheated house (because I painted the new radiator pipes today) and I see that last January 7th I was in the garden with cyclamen, snowdrops and primroses all in flower. Nevertheless, I share your beautiful prayer to be let down easy, you never know in the UK.

    • I am fixated on the imagined scene of you painting radiator pipes! Been there, done that. Alas, those were my DIY days….only a memory now. Even if you seem to be on a warming roll, I think it’s the darkness that might contribute to the dread and uneasiness. How can that not put one in a mood for final reckonings? But so far, solstice has always come and we can in good faith assume it will again. Maybe you will be out in your January garden again, enjoying the snowdrops instead of the cold and snow. Something to hope for, Hilary!

  7. What a wonderful description of early December through the eyes of what the future typically holds. Hold on, Cynthia … but the winter ahead does lead into the signs of spring.

  8. exquisite! thank you, Cyn.
    We, too, had our first light snow this week, temps in the 20’s and hard frost to scrape off the car today….but at least a bit of a break from the last 7 gray days, some sun….sigh….what a projection screen for our inner world.

    • That’s a good way of putting it, Julie. I wonder if the outer world “causes” the inner mood at this time of year, or we project the hardship and gloom upon it. The latter, I guess. We’ve not had a really heavy snowstorm yet—quite a difference from last year at this time. For me, it’s not the weather, it’s the holiday season that is the toughest to get through. January will be fine, when, a pure kind of hibernation—good for a bookish person—can go into full swing, and us chickens can hunker down. Hope all is well in Cinci…..

    • “Something there is that doesn’t love a wall…” I like that thought, Cindy, and the truth is I have come to live by the mantra “who knows?” Up or down, I’m pretty sure you and I will run into each other…that will be fun!

  9. Cynthia you are such a brilliant writer, I love reading your work (hearing you read is a highlight too). On a serious note, your imagination of simple and ordinary subjects just astounds me – it’s a magical experience in reading your work, no matter the tone or subject. You see things that others don’t and brilliantly wrap the most creative words around the thoughts to jolt the rest of us into your fantasy world. Love this one and gosh, I hope that the snow doesn’t come too quickly or in measured feet. (P.S. homemade soup and bread today – too bad you weren’t here to enjoy).

    • I will have to imagine the delicious homemade soup, Mary. Something tells me you are a good cook. Actually, you’ve inspired me….not to cook, at the moment, but to go to my freezer and take out for thawing some homemade soup I made a couple of weeks ago….hmmm…and my little bread machine could use some exercise! Of course, I won’t have your sweet company, but I will imagine it, way down there in Texas, enjoying as well! No big snow here, as yet, but you know Maine from your own past experience. It could happen any time now. Thank you, as always, for your kind words.

      • How cool Cynthia – I hope you took the soup out of the freezer and pop some ingredients into the bread machine and are having a wonderful homemade feast!! Perhaps just a little of the white stuff so you can appreciate the warmness of your soup ~ have a wonderful evening.

  10. Did someone already say this poem makes them think of lyrics to a song? Maybe it’s the repeating refrain of “let me down easy” that makes me think that. I enjoyed the way you played with the dual meaning of the word “apprehension” and the knowledge/fear of the coming season but what I particularly enjoyed was the image of snow falling “wavering just a bit” contrasted with you later in the poem going “haltingly into moonlit desolation”. Sublime.

    • It probably resembles a song because it’s one of my tweaked rondeaux. The rondeau really is a musical form for verse. I tend not to follow it strictly but the musicality still comes through, I guess. That wavering and halting is the mood of the moment. We haven’t had a real killer snowstorm yet—unusual for this area, in mid-December. Thanks for that “sublime,” Susanne.

  11. As always I enjoyed your well-tuned evocative poem with its overtimes complex double meanings. It is another sign of a great poem when the reader wants to read and re-read to make sure that he, or in my case she, isn’t missing something. I also enjoyed the ensuing blog discussion, much of which is too erudite for me. It all also reminds me how happy I am to be in Austin, Texas and to have been able to get my vitamin D by sitting in my garden basking in the sun all afternoon, ’twas lovely! By the way in a stupid association I kept thinking of RL Stevenson, “In winter I get up at night, and dress by yellow candle light…..”

    • “In winter I get up at night
      And dress by yellow candle light
      In summer, quite the other way
      I have to go to bed by day…”

      That one is called “Bed In Summer,” from Stevenson’s A Child’s Garden of Verses, isn’t it? I don’t think that’s a “stupid association” since it’s all about the change in the light as we approach solstice—whether winter or summer—and how it can be disconcerting. I recall my mother’s shutting the blinds and curtains, when we were very small, trying to trick us into believing it was growing dark when she put us to our early bedtime in summer!

      Now you don’t have to rub it in, with your lovely basking in the garden soaking up vitamin D. (These days I get that in gel caps only!) But I have a pretty active imagination, so I guess I can enjoy your sunshine vicariously, that way, and at least be glad for you! Thanks, Jane.

  12. Oh my goodness me! I have just been out to the mail box and there was a parcel there from Pauline of Dunedin with a light catcher. And you had nominated me on her blog! THANK YOU! I had no idea! I think I voted for Harry because I thought it was Susanne of Wuthering Bites! Thank you again, Cynthia. Now all we need here is some sunshine to catch it!

    • That’s great, Bruce. I was reluctant to get involved with that nomination process because, as I told Pauline–and she understood, lovely lady that she is—-I think those things are maudlin and usually end up as a competition for who is most pathetic and long suffering. Then I thought of trying to nominate someone who is not pathetic, and voilà! No one had any idea that “Harry” was a pseudonym, not even Pauline. When she learned of it, she gave a big laugh and a whoop of joy.

      I’m happy to hear you voted for Harry. Enjoy your light catcher! ( I have one, and it makes beautiful rainbows on the wall above my piano every afternoon. )

  13. Hi Cynthia! I have enjoyed this poem several times this week – each read a different take. You really are soooo good! Wow! Love the comments above too (hence my later one!). Do hope your wish is fulfilled and the landing is a soft one! 🙂

    • It is so good to know that there are close readers like you, Rob. As a fellow poet, you likely read more than once —as I do—because you see deeper into poems than just the face of things or the immediate impression. I’m glad you enjoy the comments, too. Many fine and faithful readers here, and wits and wags too! But that’s what blogging is about, in my book….good conversation with people one wouldn’t otherwise have had a chance to meet and cherish, like you! 🙂
      Thanks, as always.

      • I so agree with you as to how we read poems – seeing (and also feeling?) the nuances, textures, levels and depths, oh and the styles, techniques, etc. 🙂 As it appears many of your readers do as well!
        I also enjoy the good conversation and relationships one is able to build all over the world and, as you say, cherish. The feeling is mutual Cynthia! As is the thanks! 🙂

  14. I’ve been rereading, Cynthia, with great pleasure. I’m glad you went for ‘let me down easy’ rather than ‘easily’ — the American voice just sounds so direct and right, especially as the refrain. It reminded me of Dylan Thomas’s “Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night “: the easy speech, the refrain, villanelle/rondeau, dying … but the mood of course is utterly different. Calmer; maturer I suppose. Beautiful too. Love it.
    P.S. Enjoy your New England winter. We’re in New Zealand and it’s summer!

    • Thanks for those kind words, John. Several of my favorite bloggers are residents of New Zealand…Bruce (in Levin), Sylvie (Christchurch), and Pauline (Dunedin) and now you’re there too! I am envious and think I would like to be enjoying summer right about now, although..my ultimate fantasy Christmastime would probably be found in Vienna. Enjoy!

  15. The first stanza of your poem conjures a most beautiful image, one I’ve yet to experience with my own eyes. I’m not a Christmas person, if that makes sense, but would love to experience a winter Christmas just once. Although, as you indicate in the rest of this beautiful living through those winters on a regular basis takes its toll.

    • I’m not a Christmas person, either, and sometimes the season really gets me down. As you have always wanted to experience a snowy Christmas, I have always wanted to go somewhere where it was summertime at Christmas! For those whose ancestors knew Northern Hemisphere Christmas traditions, but now live in the Southern Hemisphere, it has had to be truly strange when all the songs and imagery of the season were about snowmen, sleighs, cold, etc.. Some of my blogger friends from Australia and New Zealand have changed that, with the next generations, and that’s a good thing, I think. It’s good when the weather matches the songs!

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