Seasoned

Uncurls the fern in spring’s dawny damp; unfurls the shawling wind across the falling heights of winter’s decay.

-oOo-

Uncurls the spring, warming under ground and stream, where things move and stretch in darkness. The child of the rising new year murmurs in his sleep, arms limp, fists tight.

Bombs of energy are pushing through the swaddling frosts: tiny buds new-gnarled; root and runner twitching to grow. Red raw from the nibbling of late frosts, varnish-bright, bramble tips and tendrils creak and move, out and up and out again. Bronze and brassy bracken punches its furry curls through the wrack of last autumn’s dry stems—an orchestra of fiddles wrapped in gold velvet, tuning up and polished, and almost ready to string the air with a song: earthy, dense, rhythmic. Leaves reveal themselves like conquerors’ pennants from their battlements, the trees. The soft deciduous northerners, invaders, steal a march on the olden ones, the first foresters, those bones and barbicans of this rough wilderness.

These same olden ones shift from their doze, to rustle their scissor-hand foliage, to stretch and bend and flex; to breathe and drink deep, deep, deeply until their sides swell. The old year’s skin cracks, and sheds, and shards itself across the forest floor.

Mycelium, grey and ghostly gestalts through the sepulchre of the soil, rest. This is not their time. Decay has a holiday in the early spring. Soon it will reappear, as the first tiny brown spot on a withered blossom or vestigial fruit bud, foretelling ruin, doing it’s appointed job … but not yet.

The child of spring kicks off the bedcovers, waves his stumpy legs in the air and delights that the day has begun. Unconcerned with past or future, he runs headlong into the damp morning sun. He wears no clothes or hat, and his feet are bare; his body buzzes with hormones and he is going gleefully, adoringly, adorably, to fuck the world sideways as soon as he figures out how to do that.

-oOo-

Spring’s rising pressure has found relief; the priapic youth, now spent and tingling to the soles of his grubby feet, lies his head on young summer’s nibbled breasts and hums in afterglow. Sweat dries into salt pans on the desert plains of his beautiful skin.

Summer, swelling and fecund, flushed and blushing, a pregnant bride, sighs her sweet, honeyed breath across the hills and fields. Wattlebirds, who passed the spring in a sober responsibility of nest and nestlings, begin to drunkenly fall and brawl with their neighbours as they ravage the eucalypts’ wooden goblets of fermented nectar high in the forest canopy; there’s nothing as funny as sotted wattlebirds, and the gang-gangs perch back and watch, bemused. Broken eggshells fall to the leafy littered ground, bounce once, settle into stillness. A lizard, perhaps, is watching.

Mothers gossip at bus stops while their toddlers gorge on blackberries, eating fruit and dust and tiny red spiders all crushed together in the child’s murderous, purple-stained fists, garnering a year’s supply of vitamins in one day. By sundown each day’s fresh berries will be sunburnt to caramel.

The woman of summer starts to feel her age, although she is forever gorgeous; she lies on the parched soil in whatever patch of shade she can find, flexing an ankle in the enervating air, burrowing her fingers into the leaf mould, seeking moisture. The water she hunts is falling away below her, as if the universe lay at the heart of the earth, drawing life down and down. Spots of direct sunlight flutter across her browning skin as the north winds bring the peppery smell of danger, the citron scent of toast.

Refugees from the heat, creatures find their way underground through cracks and burrows and leeways in the crust … Whatever wants to happen overhead has the huge hot sky to itself.

Somewhere a tree whipcracks; a branch crashes. Mint bush and dust burden the exhausted air.

-oOo-

Coolness whisps a cirrus sky, high white cloud veiling the sun, the first grey hairs in stout autumn’s short beard. He whistles the dogs home from the hedges and harvest stubble; holds hard to his hat as the braw bright sky and wicked winds compete to steal away his coat and clothing.

 Autumn rolls the spun lengths of his longing into a silken noose, slowly draws his darling to his side. He brushes her flushed cheeks, blows his warm breath on her red nose, laughs low as he nuzzles her neck; carries her in from field and ffeg to home and hearth. He draws the curtains against the early dusk, distracts his lover’s eyes from the winds and window, diverts her hunter’s heart from eyrie and eagle.

The kettle boils, the crumpets are toasted; tea and honey and runny butter, golden pools like fallen leaves in their porcelain cups and bowls, as golden as autumn’s come-to-bed eyes reflecting the fire flames. The two abed, sleep early and late; she is bound to his side by silk and sinew, scent and sensuality.

Below-stairs the root cellar is ripe and rich with the sweetness of apples and pumpkins. Spuds and carrots and onions, jars and jams and pickles, crowd the shelves with bumptious bounty. Flocks of bubbles chirp in the demijohns by the corner, where yeast and barley, and hops and sugar, are slowly making magic.

-oOo-

Unfurls the shawl of winter round the walls of valley and town. The old woman, the crone, with her bundle of firewood, stamping across the horizon in her heavy boots, knows she looks a cliché but fuggit it’s going to be a cold one this year. For the holly berries have been excessive in both quantity and hue, a buckshot wound of red splattering through the tawny and dun of the ill-clothed deciduous paupers: the cottonwoods and sycamores bare and shivering, the crackled oak, the bitter mean-fisted elm hugging his shreds to cover the old bones of him. And you can’t do better than a holly tree for telling winter’s fortune.

Winter, wizened woman so old she can’t remember the sun, hears the hiss and hum of schoolchildren heading home for holidays. She still has work to do in the cold and rain; she has no time for those who can keep their slippers on, their heads dry.

Black cockatoos rip overhead, spearing their garrulous way into the black-green Pinus radiata and grey-green Cedrus atlantica for the unctuous seeds that will see them safe til the weather turns to the better again. Beggars bed down in the dust and must of the pinewood floor, burrow and roll in their rust red blankets of needles, their earthy bed of nails.

‘Earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone’;[1] the child of spring is not yet born, the new year not yet unfurled.

-oOo-

The Writer alone in the 3 am chill, wraps a second jumper over her boney shoulders as she checks again the word count for tomorrow’s deadline; she calls a warning to a rat that clatters in the outer room: pissoff! Coffee cools by the bedside, but an electric blanket warms her arse as she

Taps

The

Final

Key


.


[1] Rossetti C. (1896) “In the bleak midwinter”, in Poems, London, UK: Macmillan & Co.

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