….. in a certain faraway land the cold is so intense that words freeze as soon as they are uttered, and after some time then thaw and become audible, so that words spoken in winter go unheard until the next summer.”–   Plutarch, Moralia


In the closed-lid-dark we open our eyes:

see nothing

but blackness;

after a time, discern glints of colour.


The mind, like a door that keeps sticking

makes promises for someone else to keep



thinks of new things that nobody thought to give

offers everything,

takes it away.



Light peels minute from minute.

Cold grinds shadows to hoar frost,

flays birdsong to sinew.  Everything

withdraws into its marrow.

Long nights are punctuated

by ice-sharp stars

as if they held answers

to questions that had no words.

Wulf Monath

I am afraid of the noise of wind in pine trees,

as though a big sea runs through them –

the punch of  air, the boom of branches

the creak of a mast.  Their bones

are growing old inside me.


The river sound is flecked

with almost words

in its hurry

over stones.


Ancient language flows by

never caught,

never lost.


They are listening,

all ears

but don’t hear

a thing.


The hunter is kept at bay.


Bare twigs of oak and ash sift the air,

crave to touch edges of light.

I tread on the lives of leaves,

copper and gold,

staring up from the ground.

Dead things, things I’d rather never

have known.

Blood among roots.



A gust of starling starts on the rim of the wind.

Rain hammers nails to the land, fog sinks into granite.


Sunset flows through us,

reaches our heart.

A robin sings out

in the dark.


Ianuarius, Latin for the god of the door.

Wulf-monath is Anglo Saxon and means wolf month.

Tammikuu, is Finnish for month of the oak, but the original meaning was the month of the heart of winter, as tammi has initially meant axis or core.

Leden is Czech for ice month.

Gennaio is Italian. 

Wintarmanoth  Charlemagne’s word for winter / cold month.

by Y.T.Y   







About Rebecca Gethin

Rebecca Gethin is a poet and a novelist. Cinnamon Press published her third collection, All the Time in the World in 2017. Another pamphlet is forthcoming with Three Drops Press. Her second novel, What the horses heard, was published by Cinnamon Press in May 2014. Her second poetry collection - A Handful of Water - was published by Cinnamon in 2013. Her first - River is the Plural of Rain - was published by Oversteps Books in 2009. Her novel Liar Dice won the Cinnamon Press Novel Writing Award in 2010 and was published in 2011. She lives on Dartmoor and writes occasional pieces about wildlife and nature. Her poems appear in a variety of poetry magazines and in several anthologies.
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4 Responses to January

  1. susanrouchard says:

    Dear Becky,
    Thank you for these winter words which have definitely thawed and found a grateful ear. I loved your “What the horses heard” and have recommended it to my mother and several friends.
    Wishing you a fruitful year of writing and may we meet again on a Poetry School course soon.
    Happy New Year
    all the best

  2. Thank you, Susan. Lovely to hear from you and thanks so much for kind words. I wish you an inspired 2015 and hope to meet up with you again somewhere! Love x

  3. Beautiful and bracing stuff for the cold beginning of another trip round the sun.

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