Scent of Almonds

Today has involved, among other things, the internet’s insistence that it couldn’t establish a secure connection to the blog, a singing lesson, and the augmenting of the Christmas Cake. We’re fairly sure the last one went wrong, somewhere between skewering the cake and soaking it in orange juice as per the instructions. Turn upside-down, they read. Add Orange Juice, they said .So we did these things, and righted the cake, because it said to do that too. And then we thought about it, and wondered how, gravity being what it is, a perforated cake was going to absorb orange juice sitting right-side-up and wrapped in clingfilm and tinfoil. The marzipan was on by then too – also as per the instructions – and we’re pretty sure that none of the above sequence is good for marzipan. We’re certain, after a sample of the stuff, that we prefer making it from scratch. It’s nothing against store-bought, but it always tastes sweeter than the home-made stuff. And not quite like almond. On the other hand, we were all saved eyeing marzipan out of obscure kitchen corners into the next millennia, so that was good.

Almonds resurfaced in the tea. It smelled of sweet almonds, which is good, because anything else would send a sane literary critic running the other direction and worrying about cyanide. Just us? It may be entirely possible we’ve read one murder mystery too many. Anyway, it’s a green tea that tastes of roasted almonds a combination that works well. It’s long in the mouth and stands being steeped for long periods of time.

Things being what they are, we ought to have a poem on hand about almonds or Christmas cakes, or something for consistency. In fairness, we did look. The absolute dearth of literate has us convinced that all anyone ever took away from marzipan was a blizzard of icing-sugar. Blizzard being, naturally, the collective noun for amassed icing sugar. Probably any poet whose baked the stuff is still coaxing it out of the crevices of counters and finding residual powder behind the toaster. Good to know we’re in good company on that one.

Instead, here’s a poem about the new year. Precipitate, possibly, but then, Advent is our liturgical new year, so it’s not entirely without relevance.

Year’s End

Richard Wilbur

Now winter downs the dying of the year,
And night is all a settlement of snow;
From the soft street the rooms of houses show
A gathered light, a shapen atmosphere,
Like frozen-over lakes whose ice is thin
And still allows some stirring down within.
I’ve known the wind by water banks to shake
The late leaves down, which frozen where they fell
And held in ice as dancers in a spell
Fluttered all winter long into a lake;
Graved on the dark in gestures of descent,
They seemed their own most perfect monument.
There was perfection in the death of ferns
Which laid their fragile cheeks against the stone
A million years. Great mammoths overthrown
Composedly have made their long sojourns,
Like palaces of patience, in the gray
And changeless lands of ice. And at Pompeii
The little dog lay curled and did not rise
But slept the deeper as the ashes rose
And found the people incomplete, and froze
The random hands, the loose unready eyes
Of men expecting yet another sun
To do the shapely thing they had not done.
These sudden ends of time must give us pause.
We fray into the future, rarely wrought
Save in the tapestries of afterthought.
More time, more time. Barrages of applause
Come muffled from a buried radio.
The New-year bells are wrangling with the snow.