Winter For A Moment Takes The Mind


Conrad Aiken

Winter for a moment takes the mind; the snow

Falls past the arclight; icicles guard a wall;

The wind moans through a crack in the window;

A keen sparkle of frost is on the sill.

Only for a moment; as spring too might engage it,

With a single crocus in the loam, or a pair of birds;

Or summer with hot grass; or autumn with a yellow leaf.

Winter is there, outside, is here in me:

Drapes the planets with snow, deepens the ice on the moon,

Darkens the darkness that was already darkness.

The mind too has its snows, its slippery paths,

Walls bayonetted with ice, leaves ice-encased.

Here is the in-drawn room, to which you return

When the wind blows from Arcturus: here is the fire

At which you warm your hands and glaze your eyes;

The piano, on which you touch the cold treble;

Five notes like breaking icicles; and then silence.

The alarm-clock ticks, the pulse keeps time with it,

Night and the mind are full of sounds. I walk

From the fire-place, with its imaginary fire,

To the window, with its imaginary view.

Darkness, and snow ticking the window: silence,

And the knocking of chains on a motor-car, the tolling

Of a bronze bell, dedicated to Christ.

And then the uprush of angelic wings, the beating

The darkness filled with a feathery whistling, wings

Numberless as the flakes of angelic snow,

The deep void swarming with wings and sound of wings,

The winnowing of chaos, the aliveness

Of depth and depth and depth dedicated to death.

Here are bickerings of the inconsequential,

The chatterings of the ridiculous, the iterations

Of the meaningless. Memory, like a juggler,

Tosses its colored balls into the light, and again

Receives them into darkness. Here is the absurd,

Grinning like an idiot, and the omnivorous quotidian,

Which will have its day. A handful of coins,

Tickets, items from the news, a soiled handkerchief,

A letter to be answered, notice of a telephone call,

The petal of a flower in a volume of Shakespeare,

The program of a concert. The photograph, too,

Propped on the mantel, and beneath it a dry rosebud;

The laundry bill, matches, and ash-tray, Utamaro's

Pearl-fishers. And the rug, on which are still the crumbs

Of yesterday's feast. These are the void, the night,

And the angelic wings that make it sound.

What is the flower? It is not a sigh of color,

Suspiration of purple, sibilation of saffron,

Nor aureate exhalation from the tomb.

Yet is these because you think of these,

An emanation of emanations, fragile

As light, or glisten, or gleam, or coruscation,

Creature of brightness, and as brightness brief.

What is the frost? It is not the sparkle of death,

The flash of time's wing, seeds of eternity;

Yet it is these because you think of these.

And you, because you think of these, are both

Frost and flower, the bright ambiguous syllable

Of which the meaning is both no and yes.

Here is the tragic, the distorting mirror

In which your gesture becomes grandiose;

Tears form and fall from your magnificent eyes,

The brow is noble, and the mouth is God's.

Here is the God who seeks his mother, Chaos,--

Confusion seeking solution, and life seeking death.

Here is the rose that woos the icicle; the icicle

That woos the rose. Here is the silence of silences

Which dreams of becoming a sound, and the sound

Which will perfect itself in silence. And all

These things are only the uprush from the void,

The wings angelic and demonic, the sound of the abyss

Dedicated to death. And this is you.

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