Entry - MAG Poetry Prize 2011

Severe weather warning

by Richard Harrow

They say the snow is on its way again,
as if it were doing the rounds 
like a doctor or influenza or a comet
on a bagatelle path across the English sky.

If it comes as they say it will,  
then, sure enough, time and trains 
and heat and post and loose change
will be lost in its wonderful wrath

which will expose the hiders and silent nighters
and the hunters who will give their game away
to the early risers and the hen pecked  
so unimpressed with sly impressions.

Cloaked magpies will be counted more clearly
as tenches in ponds appear shark-like,
magnified by a thick lens of frozen water
which has forced them to walk the bottom.

Some will be 'all Larkin' about it
and some will just be larking about in it,
whilst others bemoan its omnipresence
as one can't really defy it with an umbrella.

Unlike its above zero cousin that bursts banks
and drowns rats and engorges gutters,
this thing thinks nothing of coating everything 
in itself, until it has lost the will.

Only then, when it has been and gone, 
do we stop squinting from too much light after dusk
and look passed where once cold men stood
and hear the sound of our squeakless footsteps.

Only then, when crystalline hilt-less daggers  
drip and drop no more from overhangs,
will the yearn to re-whiten what is now so drab
and muddy and dank be wished.
But by then, as thaw fills in all the sores  
scarred by Lilliputian glacial action,
the cry will be for bulbs and buds 
and blossoms where birds can sing more joyfully.

Yet before all that can spring to life,
they say the snow might come again, again,
and this time it will hold us all to ransom,
wedded to a beautiful bitter bride.

Added: 11.01.2011