Hunters in the Snow

by Michael Fraser

It’s as if this panel frame holds us all.
The elder’s narrative addresses our eyes
feathered in weighted shades,
a hued, beatific awe oiled in wood.
The men are muted in snow, a meagre fox
bleeds into the leader’s jacket as daylight
falls like a trembling crake arrowed from
the numb sky. All that is winter flecks inches
below the dogs’ sporing tongues. This is the
season death builds. The innkeeper’s daughter,
whose hands hide sunken in her gathered kirtle,
eyes steel blue like the downhill horizon’s
chilled ponds, inhales the pig’s bristled singed
skin, her stomach wide with its own vacancy.
She knows her father can roast anything,
the dried hay stocks like a magician’s trick
spilling from his arms. If you look close
enough, you’ll see the mountain’s breasts
that don’t exist.  The ice, dotted with
children, stages a coup against the months’
labours trudging through a stretched dusk.
Each dusted tree branch is a church steeple
placed on its stronger side, looking ahead,
not up. This is how faith turns a landscape.

— from Juniper Volume 4, Issue 1