Last Dream of the Snow Spirit
The Snow Spirit is old, psychotic and white.
Icicles hang like devil’s teeth from her soul.
When the black wind rackets in the twelve-hour night
they gnash a rattling storm till nothing’s whole.
She weights down the housetops, steers toy cars to flight
kills birds in the air with breath as dark as coal;
and yet all things old and wretched once were young.
She’s forgotten what she was, or what she’s done.
Was she a blue irreverent river sprite,
who crossed some bitter god with her defiance,
made ice to live an eternity in white?
She seems to see instead a green alliance,
herself a leaf that danced in dumb delight,
ten million sister leaves her full reliance,
woodborn in a place of sun and wind made song.
But she’s old and mad; her memory’s often wrong
Or didn’t she drip, a lanquid amber mist,
Over fields and woods at dusk, all warm wet airs,
a drink for fiddling crickets, a slippery wrist
that washed down idiot mice or hipshot mares?
Perhaps she was the ripened pale poppy’s fist
a wild wind’s daughter whose white and jagged tears
bled the sap of sweetest rest beyond all thought,
punished now for the ignorant death she brought.
Whatever she was, whatever form now lost
that was changed into her harsh new symmetry,
she was not this moving famine or this frost
that wracks the world with it’s frigid ministry.
She imagines her leafgreen soul is what it cost
to pay for this unwanted eternity.
Still she dreams as she dances the sky apart
she’s not a damned storm hag with a stonecold heart.
She can’t see her own mad eyes, her ice-boned thighs.
In dreams she’s one snowstar with a million more.
Sisters flown like white leaves across the skies
dancing a wind ballet on a cloudpaved floor.
She dreams the sodden snow is white butterflies
with life instead of death humming in their core,
choired clouds of frozen wings who’ve just begun
to live, melting in the early winter sun.
This poem is written in the ottava rima form, each stanza consisting of six lines of eleven syllables rhyming alternately, ending with a differently rhymed couplet. It is irregularly metered, but conforms to the eleven syllables per line format original to the Italian, though perhaps not to the Italian pattern of stresses. English ottava rima is often written in iambic pentamenter (10 syllables)as well.
Ottava rima is traditionally used in the writing of heroic or mock-heroic work, from Boccaccio to Lord Byron to Yeats.