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In Memory of Snow, February 2040John Barron

John Barron
+ posts



Snow was a kind of hand-wringing heat;

mine burned psychedelic red with it.

Where your footsteps trod, it cast

blue shadows like a methane fire.

Crystals, so many

I couldn’t get the maths straight in my head,

falling feathery, light … FeatherLite,

my nan’s eiderdown,

all put away now inside some cupboard.

We walked through blue and yellow snow.



There’s still waking from my father’s beery kiss

above the bed clothes to the same cold sheets,

but there’s no narrative,

the man in charge left long ago.



There were ashes from the stove, a smouldering pile

our caretaker in school carried past us in a pail.

I wanted to dip in my hand,

to know the true meaning of heat.

Outside on winter days the coal heap –

each lump a headstone to lost lineage,

hands now cold and neatly folded,

fingernails seamed with black that wouldn’t scrub.

Snow from the East was drifting like sleep,

me at the coal house door with a bucket,

the coals spilling an ellipsis, my first dumb phrases

printed over the white page.



The PET scan seems to show the brain

as receding lava flows, and so too the earth from space

– spots of memory, still glowing cities –

all folded away inside the petals

of a moving star; Mother Nature’s brushstrokes,

her deft and intricate hand over the glass,

on autumn mornings my fingertips pressed there,

each print a numb, dripping galaxy

that woke slowly to its own pain.



I’m ice floes shattered,

the seamless glaze of awareness gone,

where the chemical stream gives out.

Starlings, a memory charred black,

drifts of them over the wood yard,

the sky behind ash white,

astounding in their first moments

on my mind’s happening…



and ordinary as aired beds,

pyjamas on the radiator.

My father’s beery kiss above the bed sheets.

Who was it tunnelled through head high snow

to light a chapel fire and, starved through,

before kindling flames saw

in a half-trance vision of the future only flames?



Memory is mash, it makes lumps

that get stuck in your throat.

Stale toast crumbs inside my pyjamas.

As if snowblind I’m gazing from sun to shade.

If only I could make out the shape

in the darkness like a lost loved one.

I can’t always get out of was back when,

                          silver and dark, falling and softly falling.



Tea leaves flock to the bottom

of the china cup, where the glaze has cracked.

My nan’s thin lips are moving. Fine white hairs

below her nose sway with each out-breath she makes.

She bends a bent back further to peer

into the possibilities, rooms beyond rooms

in that seaside hotel we holidayed in

– the dazzle of a bare light bulb in a wardrobe mirror

my own shape reflected there then gone

in each room the door left slightly ajar,

and in the last on the windowsill snow

– settling, falling like feathers – hers,

each flake diffusing

into unfinished background darkness.

I remember on moonless nights that sea of fire

our cold fists could never catch.



Note: silver and dark, falling and softly falling – this line is taken from ‘The Dead,’ a short story by James Joyce published in 1914.


John Barron’s poetry pamphlet The Nail Forge was with Tall Lighthouse. He has previously published work in Antiphon, The North, Poetry Salzburg Review, Pennine Platform and Dark Mountain. He is a long time gardener and is passionate about land rights, nature and ecology. Both the Permaculture Association and the Rewilding Network offer sustenance, he finds, in uncertain times. He hopes to set up a community land trust in Yorkshire to grow food sustainably, leaving space for all the other forms of life we share this planet with.


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