Friday, February 14, 2014

The Snow Queen

Since it's Valentine's Day, I'm going to share a love poem I wrote recently. Beware: I consciously went for maudlin, even over-dramatic, and I fully intend to revise later. Also: this is long.

Ice Maiden
Edmund Dulac

The Snow Queen

Her hands were always cold
This I remember, though all else
Memory, reason, imagination
Has left me, alone among the sands.
She will not follow me here
I, who of course weigh less
In her esteem than her city
The glorious towers of ice, the streets
Paved in snow, the whole palace
Glittering like a blue diamond
Set above the harbor where I docked.
Polar bears guard her doors.
By dawn the city blinded me
Yet more astounding, her.
The Snow Queen, sitting in state,
Lips blue, white hair bound back
From a face as thin and pale
As a sliver of Arctic ice
No great beauty--uncanny, that face
Perfectly symmetrical, crystalline
But I loved her. How could I not?
(I scourge myself with the sands;
The trackless desert groans itself
to sleep.) Her mind precise,
Exact as a freezing point,
As the diagrams etched into the walls
The steps in her six-eight waltz.
Ah, how I loved her! My queen,
How I blessed the blizzard
That brought me north to you!
Gladly I'd have sunk my ship
To trade horse for reindeer,
Flowers for tundra lichen
The daily Aurora for another,
The flaring green lights above
Singing in the thin cold air.
I would have done this.
(The sun sears the flesh from bone
Not long until the vultures come.)
Stayed by my Queen forever
(A caravan passing brought cakes of salt;
I wept to discover they were not ice.)
But I--oh, curse'd be this blood
That flows so thick and warm
This motion beneath my skin!
I could not stay. She loved me too--
Though I earned my keep as a hunter
I dined with her in the palace,
Drank at dawn the blood of seals
At eventide her moss champagne
We spoke of philosophy, science, art
The borealis, the stars beyond
Though the stars I saw were in her eyes
I told her of my travels, she, their history
The famous kings, the wars,
The treaty with the bears.
I loved her. I love her still.
(The warm breeze sings softly,
But how I wish it could burn cold
Like the winds from the top of the world.)
I could not stay with her
There, in her land of ice, there
By her side where I hoped to belong.
I kissed her hand--our first touch
--the light in her eyes flared
Joy to horror in moments--
My mouth was numb, but worse--
Her hand, so clear--now marred
A star of white, my lips' mark
The gramophone counted time
Six and six; what else
In a palace of hexagons, of ice?
No, she said, a plea.
I'm sorry, said I. Her eyes--
So cold, so still--saw the start of tears.
I could not stay with my Queen.
The northern lights they saw me leave
The dragons'-head prow pointing counter
To my compass and my will
She stood on her balcony, weeping herself blind
As her city glowed blue under moonlight.
(The mighty pyramids, the sphinx
All stir my longing for crystals,
For those implacable polar bear guards
Who watched their empress grieve.)
She would not follow me.
I am but a man, and a fool
Nothing set against her realm
Her ancient charge, her lands
Those silent fields of snow.
I pray she has forgotten me
Even as I pray never to forget her
Though I once wished, as I sailed
From port to port, trading winter furs
For timber, for fish, for silks
For wines, incense, and gold,
For a camel to take me here
Here where the sands shift, where
My skin burns red as seal-blood--
Once I wished to banish her memory
Those hours in her palace
Waltzing at a distance, speaking of lands
She could never see, of truths
I could never know. I no longer
Know of what we spoke. All I remember
Are fragments of her, memories
Splintered like cracks in ice,
Memories of the queen of the snows
Those eyes like stars gone dark
That face so strange, so still
The lips I never touched
Her hands: kiss-wounded, cold.


Feb 2014.

Inspired by the Subway to Sally song Schneekonigin (not by Frozen, which I still haven't seen):

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