Bio Note: The Green Man has been a frequent visitor to me most Decembers for many years. I think he is the darkness of the month. The Snow Angel is more or less what happened when my dad died on the longest night of the year. It was published in Chronogram, a Hudson Valley magazine. Last book, published in May 2020, is Hopeless Romance. A good review came out in November.
Green Man December, 2012
From my bedroom I expect to see him, something holly green skittering across the yard. The wind has picked up and our bonfire is halting from ember to flame, but a fox startles the man away, red-wind grinding close to the ground, intent for a Christmas mouse, hungry for anything shadowy and sweet to the tongue. It may have been Father Christmas that sent the young prince, persuaded by the fire, his antlers a peace offering to shadows that had missed their mark. I have everything now, all that I ever wanted, still the green man blows his cold breath up to the window. Still the crunching of hooves reassures me, not quite a snow angel, the forest-brown message of him. He breaks last year’s nettles with his hooves, dancing alone on the longest night on earth.
The Snow Angel
My father, who dies on the longest night of the year, returns a month later, somehow fifty three years old, a wild-eyed charmer, to tell me that the dead aren’t worrying about the living, that each snowflake falling is a wish spoken before it hits the earth. I am half awake, I rub my eyes. He stamps the porch, begging for a decent cup of coffee, saying he has no rest for all those wishes, no sleep for all those mad-rushes to pull us safely to the curb. I am skeptical. I hand him his coffee: milk, no sugar. He has that sheepish grin, that wolf-sure twinkle. Tell me you aren’t disappointed dad, show me how you know it’s all ok. He guffaws his coffee. I would sleep like the dead. Instead, I have dervish-toddlers, toothless men. Mostly I have you. Lighten up, they say, winter’s my busy season. I blink, his cup is empty, I was about to make us tea. His shoes wait by his empty bed, Goodwill is coming next month. Each day I walk through a forest with somebody’s name carved on a tree. All winter, during long feathery nights, wishes swirl round the house, falling on the neighborhood, on the chimneys while we sleep.
Originally published in Chronogram
©2021 Laurie Byro
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