Portrait and Poem of Winter This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.


   Tiny flakes twirl lightly down from the indifferent sky suspendedfar above the shivering world. A clear wind rat-a-tat-tats against the weepingwillows gathered solemnly outside, the sound wailing through dead branches, aghostly song echoing through the frozen night.

A cluster of houses isshrouded in a mist of smoke rising from brick chimneys. Fires burn warm and cozythrough milky windowpanes, and inside families gather around the hearth to singof the Christmas season, their ornament-covered evergreens glistening in theflickering light. The happiness and joy that is so apparent on this eve of alleves glows bright from within the tiny homes. The children hang their stockingsby the fire, and the families retire to their beds to sleep and dream of treatsand presents and love.

Away from the fires and warmth of woolen blankets,snow falls steadily, covering the trees in a fine white velvet. Shadows creepalong the downy ground, staining the snow in liquid gray and platinum, shiningeven without the moon's light. The night settles into silence, sound muffledcompletely by the ever-falling snow.

The night takes a deep breath,inhaling the sweet scent of Christmas Eve, and the snowfall slows, leaving theair still. A chill freezes the atmosphere, causing it to puff in a ghostly cloudbefore the soft faces of animals as they gradually appear. Rabbits and snowfoxes, deer and bears, crows and ferrets alike are perfectly at home in thedarkness and serenity of the night.

Just as effortlessly and gracefully asthe animals appear, so does a man clad in a leather coat and trousers, his bootscrunching loudly in the snow. Despite the usual threat of danger men send out,the animals do not flee. They stand stock-still, expectant and ready, their eyesflashing in the dancing shadows. The man stops a few feet from them, and for along time he stares into the night, smiling at the beautiful canvas laid beforehis eyes.

Then, kneeling despite the snow, the man places before theanimals a large circular tin wrapped in a dirty cloth and tied with a string.Clumsily (his grace much inhibited by a pair of gloves two sizes too large), heunwraps the parcel, tucking both the cloth and the string into his coatpocket.

"Merry Christmas," he whispers, his raspy voicecarried away on the biting wind. "Merry Christmas." In a flash, theanimals are around the tin, noses and snouts stuffed happily into it, smiling asonly animals can at the figure hovering above them.

Smiling, the man turnsand begins to follow his tracks home. He leaves the animals in peace, lettingthem eat their feast of nuts and berries, dried apples and pears and salted meat.He remembers how his own family used to share this delicious food on Christmasesso many years ago, on beautiful nights like this. A tear trickles down hisstubbly cheek, freezes instantly, and flakes off into the wind as shimmeringcrystals.

"I love you, Elli," the man whispers to his dead wife."And Merry Christmas to you."

The man fades into the cluster ofhouses, disappearing through a front door. Behind him, the night closes hercurtains, and the shadows settle once more. A gentle wind stirs the willows, andthey brush slowly over the snow.

One dazzling flake falls softly from theclouds, only to land amidst millions of others as it begins to snow again, thecold air suddenly alight with the prancing figures of ice.

As the animalsfinish their Christmas meal, they slip silently back into their own shelters. Theempty tin is left in the clearing, the only evidence that the night had stirredfrom her slumber. Wind caresses the snow, and the tracks of the animals*- and theman - are erased.

Snow covers the tin.

The dreaming form of theworld presses its cold self against the blanketed ground, snow drifting lazilyfrom the swirling gray clouds far above. A biting wind smothers the weepingwillows in icy kisses, singing a ghostly song of the night, echoing across theslumbering houses and snow-covered ground, dusting soft against evergreens anddogwoods, gliding silently and undisturbed through the fragile and breathingnight.

Another story is ready to begin, another portrait ready to bepainted. As the rosy fingers of Dawn tiptoe over the eastern horizon, the winternight's poem glides slowly to an end, unspoken words welcoming the brand-newChristmas Day.




This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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VictoriaSnigglebottom said...
Apr. 16, 2011 at 5:24 pm
This is such a beautiful story!
 
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