We Came Home Over the Snowy Fields for Christmas

Then the great halls were thrown open.
The lady of that place gave everyone a gift —
cakes stiff with age, hoarded in the larder.
Sachets that had lingered in a drawer,

now little but dust and brittle lavender.
Tracts no one could read, on the techniques
of draining marshes. Like me
a poor relation, Marie-Claude was there,

and after we stroked each other’s cheeks,
we climbed the attic stairs
to sit by the dressmaker dummies,
one still wearing a blouse that Marie-Claude

had abandoned. And my cousin, Jean Pierre,
touched by God during the great wind,
found the rabbit made of rags
he hid when he dreamed of the loup-garou,

who long ago ravaged the countryside.
That time is gone, the beast
reported dead, but in the nightmare
nothing ever changes. And nothing ever changes

in the fields we left for service in the city —
We watched a magpie on a stile,
the sun-sheen on its wings,
the light like diamonds in the snow,

and we were happy, pressing our heads together,
hair blending at the attic window.
But one bird signifies danger. I wish
there had been three, to signify good journey —

For gifts are danger, the lady remarked,
when we went down for dinner. In the giver
they awaken only longing. That is why
I give what I would not want back.

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