The first whip of winter

Copyright: Moma, New York

The other night I felt the first whip of winter and was glad at the thought of all the cosy nights ahead of me. The night skies at this time of year are clear, limitless, crisp and full of sparkle. However, as I live in London the light pollution hampers my star-gazing so I turn to the wonderful poet Alice Oswald who takes me to the night skies and familiar evening smells of woodsmoke and leaves every time I read her poem A Star Here And A Star There which is from her collection Woods etc.

the first whisper of stars is a faint thing

a candle sound, too far to read by

the first whisper of stars is a candle sound
those faraway stars that rise and give themselves airs
a star here and a star there
the first whisper of stars is that faint thing
that candle sound too far away to read by

when you walk outside leaving the door ajar
and smell the various Danks of Dusk
and a star here
and a star there
you walk outside leaving the door ajar
and on by one those stars bring you their troubles
and a star
those deafmute stars – Alkaid Mizar Alioth –
trying to make you hear who they once were
and a star
here and there
and
here and there the
start of a
Phad Merak Muscida – it’s like blowing on a ring of cinders
all that sky that lies hidden in the taken for granted air

it’s like blowing on a ring of cinders
the crackle of not quite stars that you can hear
when you walk outside leaving the door ajar
and smell the various Danks of Dusk
and here and there
the start
of a star
someone looks up, he sees his soul growing visible
in various shapes above the house

he sees his soul tilted above the house
all his opponent selves hanging and fluttering
out there in the taken for granted air
in various shapes above the house
star
he sees a star here and a star there
and a star here
and a star a star
here and there he sees

there flies that man they call the moon,
that bone-thin man, his body almost gone
star
there he flies among the stars,
that deafmute man, urgently making signs
among those first faint stars
those whispered stars, their meanings almost gone
Poem taken from Woods etc. by Alice Oswald
published by Faber and Faber 2005
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6 thoughts on “The first whip of winter

  1. A very atmospheric poem, lovely!We are into single digit temperatures where I live, it's too soon. Having said that, I really love the warming cups of tea whilst wearing my flannel pj's, sitting in front of the fire.

  2. Beautiful poem! I just LOVE this time of year. It makes me want to live in a cottage with an open fireplace where I spend my days pottering around knitting and baking and reading. Middle age beckons!

  3. I am glad I am not the only one who loves dark days and the cold weather! Darlene – warm cups of tea, pj's and a fire is my idea of heaven!Makedoandread – I dug all our blankets out of the wardrobe the other day; the cat has already appropriated one for himself!Rachel – I am soooo looking forward to middle age when I can unleash the real me i.e. middle aged! Your cottage sounds like my cottage!

  4. Oh, that is a beautiful poem! I've never read any Alice Oswald before but can see I'm definitely going to have to check her out. I am another massive Autumn fan — I think it's my favourite season (especially the lovely crisp, cold days we're having at the moment — the colours are just breathtaking). I also love Starry Night, and was thrilled to see it when I was in NYC earlier this year.I only recently discovered your blog, but am very much enjoying going through the archives!

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