January 31st, 2008


Marsden is a small town on the Yorkshire side of the Pennines which mounts a fire-festival at Imbolc. It's a modern tradition going back about 15 years. They have a torchlight procession along the canal tow-path and fireworks and guising.  I went about ten years ago with Jax- who was a member of our coven and an RE teacher- and wrote this poem a year later.


                                    Round about now- late January-

                                    With the cold in my head still being a bitch

                                    And the weather cold and dank and grey,

                                    I start to be thinking a lot about spring.


                                    Last night I dreamed I was pushing a wheelchair

                                    Up a steep hill in a strange town,

                                    Looking for where my grandparents lived

                                    (They're dead of course) and I'd lost the address.


                                    And that's why Candlemas is so good;

                                    It punctuates a dead time of year

                                    And gives me an image to carry about

                                    Of a girl with an evergreen crown on her head


                                    With candles in it.  One year we plaited

                                    A crown like hers from wire and leaves

                                    And one of the girls in the coven wore it,

                                    Candles ablaze.  It teetered a bit


                                    And so did she, but the look of the thing

                                    Was fine.  Last Candlemas Jax and I

                                    Drove over the hills to the festival

                                    At Marsden.  What a show they put on.


                                    There was old Jack Frost- a nine-foot contraption

                                    Moving with little, little steps

                                    (Like Beverley with that crown on her head)

                                    Receiving a challenge from equally delicate


                                    Jack in the Green.  They had a fight,

                                    Bumping carefully into each other,

                                    Till bad Jack left and good Jack did

                                    His victory twirl.  Then guisers masked


                                    As spry young foxes danced in formation

                                    Each with a flaming torch in her paw.

                                    Low in the cloudless sky the moon

                                    Hung full and poured her influence


                                    On the black waters of the canal,

                                    As in the Tarot card of that name,

                                    Where the crawfish struggles out of the pool

                                    And two odd, fox-like, dog-like things                


                                    Howl to left and right of a path

                                    That winds uphill between two towers

                                    Into the country of wicked illusion

                                    Or cheerful illusion- you tell me which-


                                    Where grandpapa and grandmama

                                    Are sitting up to be visited

                                    In their penthouse flat in the comfy chairs

                                    We sent long,  long ago to the tip.