Snowdrop Studies

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© Catherine Coulson 2018

From Low Lands poetry chapbook:


Mid February days of shifting temperatures,

whisper Spring, though no visible sign

is observable in the landscape, just the same 

flattened, wet, overwintered vegetation.

The air smells differently 

and the birds sing differently,

underground the earth is a mass of energy

pushing upward, tips of green shoots 

move the crusted soil

The following days are unusually mild,

with substantial heat from the sunshine

bringing new observations:

a small tortoiseshell, 

brilliant yellow of a single lesser celandine

nestling into the warmed stone of a sea cliff ruin, 

star-shaped tips of just-emerged bluebell bulbs

and the scent of wild garlic leaves.


Then one morning, a sublime light,

scanning low under trees

fanning out in semi-visible lines.

Warm crepuscular rays glint

like giant spiderwebs 

broken by crimped horizontals

and split into feathery rainbows.

Deep in gloom behind the well

these sunbeams cause an exposition

illuminate this apparition.

Glittering masses of white opals,

gatherings of alabaster ovals,

with perfect still-closed buds,

some upward pointing

fresh-emerged and reaching still,

others taller and just-relaxed

petal edges white-lit and crystalline

lanterns hung under spiky spathes

glowing droplets stretching down

from waxy green capsules.


Between the ferns, new

clumps form in mossy ground

their glaucous leaves emerge 

in bluish contrast 

to the golden-green backdrop

pushing through twigs, bramble,

and last year’s leaf litter.

Sudden snowy storms obliterate the sun 

in cloudy masses 

flakes drop slowly, lightly, 

swirling in semi-suspension 

creating sifted powder, 

dry and squeaky underfoot.

Days go by without melt 

and the East storm arrives,

bitter cold and freezing the earth


wind-thrown snowdust moves 

in eerie, semi-opaque murmurations 

flowing across the land and 

suddenly dissolving,

catching the snowdrops

in an icy wilted mass,

bending them towards the earth 

their perfection trapped and distorted 

through clear sheets of frost. 

wildlife moves closer, 

birds and voles scrabble in the snow for hidden seed 

by night the moon reveals badgers searching for scraps.

Young deer collect under the hemlock tree,

jumping for needle tips just out of reach.

And just as quickly as it came, 

the storm recedes, and all is calm.


As the thaw spreads, the flowers revive, 

their petals, stems, surely bruised,

protected by homemade antifreeze

hold pristine and upright again.

Shape-shifting in sunlight’s warmth

buds begin to part and open,

splitting in trinity.

Pearlescent curves 

delicate and bell-shaped

raising slightly upward

revealing glimpses 

of tubular inner petals

edged with green-lined markings

like french striped linen.

Weeks pass, stems lengthen and yellow, 

lifting buds high above their leaves

in diffuse light the flowers

appear waxy and dull 

yet still intensely luminous 

like vellum held to the light.


An expanse of snowdrops 

in the orchard clearing,

turn together towards the sun,

lifting up their petals

like a cloud of moths

preparing for flight

revealing patterned hindwings.

After the day’s warmth and wilt,

Half-slid water drops 

resting at angles,  

sit like glassy beetles

in the fading light,

and as fragile cells revive 

heads nod and descend

with the dewfall.

© Catherine Coulson 


from Low Lands poetry chapbook