The Distance of Winter


Inspired by A Place Called Winter by Patrick Gale, which features an outcast gentleman in the early twentieth century – self-exiled due to his clandestine homosexuality – now working an almost barren patch of land in the winter of Canada. It is an exquisite read, and it captures the landscape – and indeed mindscape, of the protagonist – with beautiful vividness and cold clarity. 


I could only stop wondering precisely when

Winter would end, once I realised that

Truly, Winter is a place. I wondered far

In its mists, seeking egress, any landmark

Or lonely tree which beckoned me to change,

Gave some sense of movement or distance,

But found none. Tracing the uneasy river

Upon frostbitten stones I trudged, my breath

Caught in the air, an unquoted silence. Absence

Of birdsong is the cruellest death from cold.

I’d worked the land until the autumn stretched

Sun-like to martyrdom, ploughed shadowed ground.

Now, harvests wrenched from land, she mourns her death.

But there is peace in mists: the buried earth

Treads firmer underfoot, like contemplation,

Step by step. Under an empty sky

The fields seem vaster than the very world, itself.

Winter is a land, mine to delight in.

That is a loneliness: and it is fine.



3 thoughts on “The Distance of Winter

  1. Dear James, So glad you have enjoyed the Patrick Gale. And we have enjoyed your poem. Really beautiful. Thanks. I’ve just read a book set in Alaska, The Snow Child’ based on a retelling of ‘Snegurochka’, the Russian Folk Tale, by Eowyn Ivey, a native Alaskan. So I am altogether feeling delightfully snowed in. Love from Gran

    Sent from my iPad


    • My word, thank you! I am so glad you enjoyed. As trite as it sounds, thank you for writing the novel itself: exquisite piece of fiction. (My regards to Harry.)

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