Winter Solstice by William Watt

Due north, its measured round complete,
Earth cleaves its seasons’ wax and wane,
as suppliant, the year-end’s draff,
dead leaves bend to the absent sun.
The path of night leads back to birth:
the star repeats its parallax.
Under wide orbits cleanly graphed
the frost-clenched fields ingerminate.

Thule is dayless, and the plow must shun
the dour crust, the arthritic roots which run
twisting through shallow graves. On the longest night
the restless spheres, Earth-centred, encased the rite:
Cut! Shear the mistletoe from its wintered tree,
unman the old year, set the new year free;
the gnomon’s shadow, turning, liberates
the soil we quicken.—The woods grow light.

Now in annual fealty the sun at rising
faces the Statues-of-the-Plain, whose stone
renews the celestial power to invoke
the flooding Nile. As the East rose-window
takes, all year, the day’s first-offered light
to tinge the cross. An old man spells
the god’s return, sullen and stiff, to his farm:
from the dark kingdom to the mourning bitch.

And wasn’t the King of Rome baptized with light?
Baptized with light, though the Earth’s condemned
to sweep its constant sector around the sun:
when the mirrored pattern that once ratified
his sovereignty, had passed?

Solstice: a lynx,
having found means to smash his accustomed cage,

—freed of his chains, but not of their weight—
quivers in the chill hours until dawn.

From: http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poetrymagazine/browse?volume=99&issue=4&page=24

Date: 1962

By: William Watt (1913-1996)

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