Snow in Advent
by David Cobb (U.K.)
….. hurry up hurry
….. dusty cobwebs
.. all over the sledge
Not the sight or sound of falling snow
stirred us from our beds,
more the feeling of its presence as weight,
of its avoirdupois if you will,
or lack of it, three inches deep now,
the glare of snow settling on eyelids,
dressing us up as in fancy dress for Christmas.
To begin with nothing sullies the snow,
not a footprint on paths, no print of hand
on bonnets of cars. No animal shows itself,
no puss cat tests it with a dangling paw,
no rabbit sniffs it. Just a small fluffed-up bird,
such as blackbird, tit, goldfinch, thrush
has left here and there some hungry impression.
There’s a shout for cameras,
reminder to put on woolly caps, boots, scarves …
.. even the rose bushes
. starting to throw them
An (Cottage) Prize
by David McCullough (Japan)
A February sky rose — grey pillows of turbulent cloud that soared in heavy, roofless towers above the crematorium. Lit by the lowering sun, every colour was painted on that air; purples, greens, flashes of fire. Diminished, far below, women in windblown hats huddled with men in dark suits. There was a minister with a fading, professional smile.
At a nod from the undertaker we six gathered. Two pallbearers lifted the coffin. We all stepped close. The trolley was whipped away. The weight of the wood came heavy onto our shoulders. We straightened our knees.
From far away a sudden thunder shook the sky. Dry leaves lifted. A hiss hurried over the car park … white hailstones came flashing to rattle on the coffin lid. We moved toward cover. At the chapel doorway we stopped, spilling shards of ice across the granite floor. We held our breath, then entered to lay the box at the front of the room.
A quiet body rested there. Waited to be lowered into hot fire.
The proper end to a decent life.
And yet, and yet; I could not bear to see it go.
After the service, people stood, murmuring to each other.
I went up to the box.
With one hand clutching the hand of my daughter I lifted the other to touch my father for the last time.
.. eyes closed,
.. fingertips on oak —
.. the sound of hail
.. giving way to rain
An (Cottage) Prize
Key West Cat
by Joan Prefontaine (U.S.A.)
At Blue Heaven Restaurant, which once hosted cock fights and late-night boxing matches refereed by Papa Hemingway, I sneak a morsel of Grilled Filet of Mahi-Mahi with Island Curry Butter Sauce to one of the wandering felines (a gray tabby with yellow eyes), reaching low under my chair where the outdoor courtyard is paved with slate pool tabletops from the days when this establishment included a billiard hall—something I would never, never do at home. “You shouldn’t do that,” my husband demurs, buttering his hunk of cornbread. “She’ll follow us back to our room.” “It’s a poor, street cat,” I say, “dependent on the kindness of strangers.” “It’s a five-star restaurant cat,” he says. “Look. No sunken-in belly, no torn fur.” He is enjoying every bite of his Grouper Rubbed with Dry Caribbean Spices, Herbed Potatoes, Half Moon Cucumbers and a Lime and Honey Glaze. (At the Hemingway House down the street, fifty felines, half of them six-toed polydactyl cats, and one rare seven-toed specimen, conk out in the heat of the day in the shade of the luxurious grounds.) This resolute, restaurant-alley cat is neither shabby nor discreet. When she is done gulping the fish I have so courteously dropped for her, she is off to gape, like a hobo whose mouth is her tin cup, at another woman wearing a Dolphins Are Beautiful t-shirt and silver conch earrings, and whose Jamaican Jerk Chicken with Rice, Black Beans and Plantain, has just arrived on an elegant tray, fragrant and sizzling.
.. seagulls line up
.. to wait for
.. the incoming tide