Winter’s Tale, winter’s tale,
Bodies grouped into bed – Chinese,
Tibetan, brick-oven mattress, keeping
Their bodies warm. We clap if we think
There are ghosts around – ghosts need
Spices fill the air, vapours of
Cinnamon, cloves, cloven hooves,
Mulled wines and smoked viands,
Purling down the hall, rolling up
Chimneys to exchange greetings with
A night crisp and cold as a frost giant’s
What will the norns have to say
About this? They have kept my
Fate simmering in the larder for
Longer than I can remember, my
Family crumpled together, like
Skeletons in a crypt
Chinese, Tibetans – but certainly
We are in London – the mayor flicks
His yak-tail whisk, and hides himself
Under many skins –
Offerings to the Mountain Gods
“I am but one man – a friend
Called me a medieval bard – but
I have all of Tibet and China within
Me; perhaps, too, samples of Mongolia,
And blizzard-faced Siberia, where my
Throat-singing can still be heard.
“I should like to go to some fireside
Tavern, and tan my hide into the devil’s
“You see, he’s just been misunderstood.
We need the devil as much we need that
Which shuts him out.”
My cloven hooves clattered over
Cobblestones, streaky sludge from
Mysterious snow, where the wisteria
I lay down in the cold.
I wanted to die.
I wanted my follicles to be
Fingered with the flame of
Every piercing frost.
And lo! The Lord of Frosts
Appeared before me in his
Glistering kingdom. He set
The sails astrand that lets
Every mucker know, his
Iceberg would soon come
“But my family!” I pleaded.
“My wife and her daughters
Are all squeezed into bed in
One Tudor room!
How will they escape you?
How will they fly from
“They won’t,” said the Lord
Of Frosts, coldly. “All freeze
Whom I dare to freeze. And
Have I not frozen? Your case
Is lost with me.”
“Please,” I begged him. “Is there
Nothing I can do to save them?
Take me – not them!”
The King of Frosts was not
To be appeased. He had a
Hunger for human women.
He wanted to feel their skin
Cripple beneath the
Tenebrosity of his arctic flesh.
A disgusting rapist of the realms.
Yet he dared call himself lord!
But then he had a thought:
“I have never experienced this
Thing called ‘heat.’ He said to
The man. “Give us leave to
Wear your body, and perhaps
Thy wife and daughters will be
“Perhaps?!” cavilled the man.
“Am I to lease my life on the
Crumb of a perhaps?!”
“What man can promise
Any kind of certainty
In a world such as this?
Take what I give you.
Perhaps they will be
The man nodded his assent.
Casting his soul out with a
Scream, The Lord of Frosts
Took habitation in his body,
And instantly founding it wanting
In pleasance. But he knew this was
Only because he knew not heat.
Hence, findeth heat he must.
The man, meanwhile, was in
A graveyard of shivers. Arctic
Demons sang out in symphonic
Shrieks to towering snowmen –
To Kings of Death, and Queens
They ushered his chill soul
Into their almighty halls,
Racing through with blistering
Winds, and immense ravens with
Jet plane wings.
“We loves the cold,
We loves the old,
We cuddle death,
And the wind’s palsied breath!
“We loves the snow,
We loves the frost,
Into the icy sea,
You will be tossed!”
Thus, they tossed him into
The sea. He would try to cleave
His way out, but the only adjacent
Landmass was an archipelago of
Madmen, who would throw him
Back in again, laughing, every time
He tried to come aboard.
Meanwhile, The King of Frosts
Acclimatized himself to human flesh;
To the misery of chilblains, and the constant
Hell of living in an environment,
Never intended for life.
“Oh wifey! Oh kiddies!” he crooned
Down barrel-dragon streets. Drunkards
Lurched glaringly out of newspapers,
And tawny owls screeched above; a
Midnight curse to all they do not
At last, he found his house.
He walked up the sooty stairs,
Screeching at any guardians of
The threshold who might prohibit
His wife and kids were on the
Second floor, crammed into a
Four-poster bed. In a palace, faraway,
A Haydn oratorio was carousing the night
Air. But, this was not a palace – just a den
The Winter Demon could see inside
The dreams of the children. They
Dreamt of the redemption of hunger –
Of larders overwrought with cakes, and
Jellies, pastries, and hard toffees. No
Cinnamon smoked here – just the parlous
Perfume of ice.
The Winter Demon tried to see his
New wife’s dreams. But
Her dreams were only whispers
Of a plea, degraded into
Sepia – A Husband’s Return
The Frost King loomed over
The bed. He saw the piled-up
Coverlets, and was reminded
Of an avalanche – a love letter
“Pneumonia, my pretties! Sweet
“Stop that muttering, Henry Giles,”
Murmured his missus from the bastion
Of the covers, “and get into bed! Your
Heads all a-muddle from
Those night-terror colds! Get
In here where it’s snug and
“Warmth!” The Frost King drooled.
“That’s why I’m here!”
At his wife’s insistence, he stripped
Off his sodden, slush-soaked clothes,
And crawled into bed beside her. He
Did not know what to do. He had never
Shared a bed with a human woman
Before, except in the catharsis of
But the wife directed him. She
Cradled her soft, fat body against
Him, his loins nestled betwixt her
Buttocks like toad-in-the-hole. Then
She took his hands, and sternly clasped
Them to her milksome breasts.
“There you are, my dear!” she said,
Delighted. “That’ll warm you up! Just
You hold on tight, and those winter
Demons won’t plague my Henry
“But I AM a Winter Demon!”
The frost king wailed miserably.
“Of course you are, my dear!”
Missus Henry cosseted him.
“Now, you just snuggle up
With your missus, now, and
We’ll see if we can’t thaw
That winter demon out!”
And, true enough, the Winter
Demon melted like butter in
The arms of his wife. And, except
For a little sniffle every now and
Then, no more was said about
But, what of poor Henry Giles?
Was his soul still floundering at
The Bottom of the Ocean being
Snapped at by sea demons?
I shall leave that for the reader
To decide. Otherwise:
It’s all in winter’s night, my friend,
All in winter’s night!