To the Snow Queen

John Burnside

Quest’è ’l verno, ma tal che gioia apporte

Antonio Vivaldi

If you think she exists like that, you should think again.
It’s winter now, and love is not the question.

Children see wolves through the trees
and the beauty astounds them.
Winter, they say; it’s winter, and joy is the question.

Mistake her for what you will: when she stands in your path
at evening, she is not
the enemy you always hoped to find.

Her boarhounds await her command; they are always
more than predators
and joy is what they live for, heedless joy.

Whatever we bring to the forest is not enough.
No safety precautions; no field guides; no grandfather’s compass.

Children walk home from school in twos and threes
with mandarins and cloves and lengths of ribbon.
Some call her name in the dark.
                        She will never choose them.