Tue
Apr 23 2013 12:00pm

Snowmelt

Mari Ness

Mari Ness National Poetry Month SnowmeltPresenting “Snowmelt,” a reprint of an original poem by Mari Ness in celebration of National Poetry Month on Tor.com, originally published on Goblin Fruit.

Tor.com is celebrating National Poetry Month by featuring science fiction and fantasy poetry from a variety of SFF authors. You’ll find classic works, hidden gems, and new commissions featured on the site throughout the month. Bookmark the Poetry Month index for easy reading.

 

Snowmelt

1

The dark blood glittering on the grey snow—

2

and the memories, swarming like thin crows
over fresh corpses. Your throat burns. No. Those

3

cold secrets stay dying within your mind,
never quite willing to remain confined.
You know better to think of life as kind.

4

Drop, drop. Fly to the woods,
oh wicked crow
a delicate heart beats
upon the snow.

5

The mirror croons an unending song.
Black feathers gather upon the grey snow.
I know what does and does not belong.
Black feathers gather upon the grey snow.
The mirror croons an unending song.

6

And inevitable—oh yes, oh yes—
that you should seize that apple from her hand,
its taste on your tongue almost a caress.

Inevitable that her sweet command
sucked away, for a moment, all distress.
Crows sing sadder songs in this haunted land.

7

Mother, mother. A soft cry
breaking the night.
Mother, mother. No reply.
The walls gleam a cold, calm white.

You never knew her name, nor why
the walls seemed so suddenly tight,
and the water you sipped seemed dry.

8

She came to you both in the cool moonlight:
hair white as snow, lips bloodied as a rose.
Oh, those lips, promising such rich delight!
She came to you both in the cool moonlight.
He imprisoned her hands, and crooned. Sparrows
huddled on the soft earth, afraid of flight.
She came to you both in the cool moonlight,
hair white as snow, lips bloodied as a rose.

9

And you will have time to remember all
the little men, the ebony and glass,
the frightened huntsman with his golden call,
the taste of thin gold shielding cold brass.

The blood sinks so swiftly into the snow.

And you will have time to examine each,
to twist it into some innocent tale,
a mirrored truth, a grim lesson to teach,
your cold secrets wrapped in a storied veil.

10

Sing the songs your mother knew:
of women and dragons,
of princes and wagons,
of the way that the cuckoo flew
to the only nest she ever knew
Sing, crow, sing.

Sing until you make it true:
of a bubbling witches’ brew
of poison kept in crystal flagons

Sing, crow. Sing.

11

You tiptoe, so gently, to the dark woods,
to the secret places tangled in roots.
So easily we cling to our falsehoods
of warmth, of safety, of a mother’s bliss
in a daughter. A needle pricks your skin.
You tuck leaves into a tattered bodice,
wrap yourself warmly in bloodied deerskin.
You were never woken with a soft kiss,
tangled as you were with other pursuits.
So easily we lose our childhoods.
The spring snows, melting, pierce your slender boots.

12

And you will remember the red hot shoes
So lovingly made with iron fire.
And you will remember that delightful ruse:
None of these tales were about desire,

so lovingly made with iron fire.
(Fingers tap at your arm, touching that bruise.)
None of those tales were about desire.
You will not use that timeworn word, abuse.

Fingers tap at your arm, touching that bruise.
And you will remember the red hot shoes.
You will not use that timeworn word, abuse.
And you will remember that delightful ruse.

13

The crystal coffin shaking in the snow,
the mirror crooning to a lonely crow,
the prince smiling at an unmoving bride,
the huntsman knowing of uneaten pride.
These are not stories you have wished to know.

You remember waiting at the window.
The falling snow, the heat rising inside.
You remember the stinging of your thumbs.
Crows peck at the bloody snow.

The silver needles flashing to and fro.
The delicate shrouds for those who had died.
You remember hearing she comes, she comes
Crows peck at the bloody snow.

14

The crows arrive, spiralling, one by one,
attacking the first green shoots on the trees,
calling for their kin in the cold grey sun.
You gather large handfuls of moist, dead leaves.

You bury them all, in the half frozen earth:
the comb, the ribbon, the old apple core,
the ebony panel. Nothing of worth.
The cold dying secrets that you once bore.

And the crows flying in circles above,
the air filling with the weight of their cries,
the woods filling with the weight of true love,
the glass coffin cracking before your eyes.

And it is time, past time, for you to go.
The blood sinks so swiftly in the spring snow.


Mari Ness is an author and poet who lives in Central Florida.

This article is part of Poetry Month: ‹ previous | index | next ›
1 comment
A. Cole
1. A. Cole
The rhyme scheme in this poem is magnificent. A slow, rise-and-fall beat that carries me throughout.

I particularly like stanza 9. Some delicate allusions to Prufrock.

And, yes, the awakening of the feminine, the way spring opens suddenly just after the last frost.

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