Solstice Night: For My Daughter
by Theodora Goss
I imagine them meeting in the forest,
the new year and the old.
The old year is the age
I will be, my dear,
when you insist on holding my hand
as I cross the street, the way
I once held yours.
She will be a fierce old woman,
bent, but still strong,
with thin, sinewy wrists,
holding together a shawl as black
as a raven’s wing,
with small brown eyes
like nuts or seeds fallen on the snow
and a sharp tongue.
She will scold the new year:
Where are your mittens? Don’t you know
you could get frostbite? I can’t believe
your mother would let you go out
dressed like that.
And the new year in her silver dress,
a bright young thing with cropped hair,
ready for a party, covered
with spangles that make her look
as though she is wearing stars,
will say, Oh granny, I’m not cold!
What a glorious night, what a wonderful
new beginning. Come dance with me
in the moonlight, under the trees.
Then your bones won’t feel the chill
anymore. Could anything
be more delicious?
She could be your sister,
rebelling as you rebelled against
bedtime and mittens, the necessity
of a sensible coat,
because the world is new and the young
think they know everything.
The old year will, at her insistence,
take a few steps in a stately dance
they both know, a sarabande, although
the new year would rather cha cha.
The old year will shake her head, saying
to herself, under her breath,
Just wait. You will be
where I am now.
And you and I, my dear,
standing here between the new year
and the old, tired and anxious
about what the future will hold —
what should we do?
Let us take their hands, those two —
the young woman and the old,
the straight and bent, the luminous
and dark, the dove and crow,
new life and death.
We could do worse than learn
a few dance steps.
(The image is Masque of the Four Seasons by Walter Crane.)