Poems for December

OUT of a sky green-blue and sweetly cold
The north wind comes, bowling the rounded clouds
Smoothly and easily over the hills unrolled
In first snow’s white. The fir trees stand in crowds
Whispering with excitement, tingling through
With the first good chill of winter, the air made new.
I pause with my hands turned blue on the bucksaw’s handle,
Turning my face to the wind and breathing again
The years gone by when the air was my spirit and brain,
When sharp-eyed and lithe it moved on a noiseless sandal
Out of the forests I worshiped and watched in pain,
Watched in the pain of love and anticipation,
Youngest years when I welcomed the hunter, air,
With his green-blue eyes, and shadowy frosted hair
Crisp with the feathery ghosts of autumn leaves,
And his gray lean knife that drew my eager blood.
I grew from the wounds he gave, and his breath was food,
From his glance I forged the spirit that wills and believes.
O hunter-companion, the years that have fallen between
Have found me an exile, south and west, but one
Who sought you forever, through forest of memory green
With longing immortal, and gray with a winter sun.
I sought you yet never lost you: year by year
I have heard you in silence and lifted my face to feel
The edge of your strength when I languished. And now you are here
On the hills I return to — swift as a prick of steel
That catches me unaware, that runs me through.
O hunter-companion, I leave my house tomorrow,
And over the hills of the North I shall follow you.
The years will vanish from me and the needless sorrow,
And I shall be lithe and wily, and quick to see The way you swing to a hill and lean to a hollow,
And stride for stride I shall keep your thigh to me.
We shall run together again; and then, as before,
You will outstrip me; the sweeps of russet grass
And the blowing oaks and the cliffs where birches soar —
All, all with the snow upon them will cry as you pass,
And hold the traces that I am searching for.
And down at the stone wall’s ending, the spruce’s rim,
Where the world curves under and crouches in certain sleep
I shall see you bending, your headdress gleaming dim,
And your face grown quiet. The sky will be dusky and steep,
But still I shall see the pool you are drinking from:
Its amber clearness, the way it runs through your hand.
And kneeling beside you to drink, with the heart struck dumb,
I shall know and remember the taste, and the look of the land,
The friend I am with, and the changeless way I have come.