Early Morning Winter Walk

Footprints follow like a shadow as I walk
Through early morning snow as white as powdered chalk.
Dragon-steam appears with each expired breath
Embraced by frigid-fingered air as cold as death.

Crystal-laden dune grass bows beneath its load
And ice-etched, frozen puddles line the frosty road.
Tree limbs rimed in tatted lace-like filigree
Host winter birds engaged in witty repartee

Beach path slithers like an alabaster snake
As dawn-light stirs the sleeping, ice-bound world awake.
Rising surf wipes white-washed beach sand slate-board clean
As Eos bathes the morning clouds in opaline.

Dayspring fantasy—a fleeting moment in
A dream world made of diamond-crusted porcelain.

 

Winter Thunderstorm

A micro-second flash of arcing light
_Explodes the silent, moonless, midnight sky,
_Illuminates the heavens, blinds the eye,
_Outshines the stars, and vanquishes the night.
I count, “One thousand one, one thousand two…”
_As splintered shards of shattered air descend,
_With crackle-rattle-rumble-roar, and rend
_The ear—a winter storm is passing through.
A gust of wind, a sudden, breathless pause;
_The click of scattered hail admixed with snow,
_As strobe-lit clouds recede, and end the show
_With distant, fading, thunderous applause.
At dawn, a cloudless sky, the storm is gone,
Except for hailstones blanketing the lawn.

 

James A. Tweedie is a recently retired pastor living in Long Beach, Washington. He likes to walk on the beach with his wife. He has written and self-published four novels and a collection of short stories. He has several hundred unpublished poems tucked away in drawers.


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18 Responses

  1. Peter Hartley

    I really liked these two offerings.Both are very atmospheric and I nearly had to put my overcoat on after the first. I particularly liked the “splintered shards of shattered air”. The kind of poetry that I particularly enjoy, instantly intelligible, with very strong metaphor that doesn’t go over the top.

    Reply
    • James A. Tweedie

      Keep warm, Peter. Spring is on the way! And thank you for the kind words. I’m glad you like that particular phrase. I like it, too.

      Reply
  2. Sally Cook

    Dear James Tweedie –

    As always I admire your metaphoric skills and precise vocabulary. You create the scene, and are therereporting all with all your highly developed senses. In the first poem, I can almost find myself there, walking with you. This is an undeniable skill.

    But there is something about your meter in that poem which makes me stumble when I should glide. Since I find it difficult to describe, may I resort to showing you what I mean?

    Early Morning Winter Walk
    Footprints follow like a shadow as I walk
    Through morning snow as white as powdered chalk.
    Dragon-steam with each expired breath
    Is gripped by frigidair as cold as death.
    Stiff crystal-dune grass bows beneath its load
    And ice-etched, frozen puddles line the road.
    Tree limbs reach, rimed in tatted filigree
    Host birds engaged in witty repartee
    The beach path slithers, alabaster snake,
    As dawn-light stirs the ice-bound world awake.
    Surf wipes the white-washed beach sand slate-board clean
    As Eos bathes the clouds in opaline.
    A dayspring fantasy—brief moment in
    A dream world made of jeweled porcelain.
    This is not at all the case with “Winter Thunderstorm”, which I prefer but only because of the awkward meter of “Early Morning Winter Walk”.
    However, there is much to be praised in both poems. Your prefise vocabulary, and the pictures you paint have much to offer. Thank you for sharing them.

    Reply
    • James A. Tweedie

      Sally, I’m glad you raised the issue. The meter in Early Morning Winter Walk is precise and intentional. It is, in fact, a collection of seven rhymed metrically-identical hexameter couplets, with the first line of each couplet beginning with a trochee and the second with an iamb. It is, I suppose, an experiment. Although it may, at first glance, appear to be a sonnet, it is not a sonnet and not intended to be one. It does not, of course, flow as smoothly as iambic pentameter (which is featured in the second poem and which IS a sonnet) but I am quite satisfied with the result. It reads best, I think, when the lines are read as a series of couplets. If someone knows of a poem with a similar metrical structure I would be interested to see it.

      Reply
      • C.B. Anderson

        Honestly, I find nothing wrong with the meter. We can’t expect every iambic line to begin with a pure iamb. In fact trochees are often substituted for initial iambs:

        Once in a while the tinker comes to town

        would be an example of this. But that’s not what you have done — you have simply omitted the initial unaccented syllable. The practice is fairly common, and I think there is actually a technical name for it, which I cannot remember. Anyway, metrical experimentation is not a bad thing if one is aware of it, one is in control, and especially if it is done consistently throughout the poem. I’ve done this many a time and usually think myself rather clever for having done so. For editors who are hostile to rhyme, it is often possible to slip blank verse with complicated metrical structures past them without them being any the wiser.

  3. James A. Tweedie

    E.V. Thank you for your “complimentary” comment. I’m glad it finally came through!

    Reply
  4. Alexander Ream

    When I was a young man, I’d go for a walk in the winter. Rarely was there snow; it was the American South. I called it my winter hike, because we lived in the country. Your poem recalled that thought – as well as Robert Frost’s poem about choosing the road less travelled. And it has made all the difference.

    Reply
  5. Mark Stone

    James, Both poems sparkle with beauty. However, like Sally, I stumbled over the meter of the first one. “Footprints follow like a shadow” creates a solid expectation of trochaic meter throughout. One way to prevent such a stumble would be to take the first syllable of each even-numbered line and make it the last syllable of the previous line. Then you would have trochaic meter throughout, and no disappointed expectations. It would work everywhere except lines 3 & 4, but you could revise those lines to make it work. Here’s what I mean:

    Footprints follow like a shadow as I walk through
    Early morning snow as white as powdered chalk.
    Dragon-steam appears with each expired breath em-
    braced by frigid-fingered air as cold as death.

    Crystal-laden dune grass bows beneath its load and
    Ice-etched, frozen puddles line the frosty road.
    Tree limbs rimed in tatted lace-like filigree host
    Winter birds engaged in witty repartee.

    Beach path slithers like an alabaster snake as
    Dawn-light stirs the sleeping, ice-bound world awake.
    Rising surf wipes white-washed beach sand slate-board clean as
    Eos bathes the morning clouds in opaline.

    Dayspring fantasy—a fleeting moment in a
    Dream world made of diamond-crusted porcelain.

    Reply
    • James A. Tweedie

      Mark, you have caught a way to demonstrate the way I intended the poem to be read. Well done. As we all know, poetry is not always written to be read line by line. It often curves in and around itself as my sonnet does in line 7/8. The “Stumble” you and Sally refer to is not the fault of the poem but of the preformed expectation the reader brings to it. Sally brought the expectation of pentameter and you brought the expectation of initial trochees. Each of you reformed the verse to make it work for you. I have no problem with that. But from my perspective, the poem is exactly the way I intended it to be. Frankly, I have been getting somewhat bored cranking out iambic pentameter. Expect more experimentation in the future. I will eagerly await your reaction to it! Thanks, by the way, for your input (and Sally for her creative re-write). You honor me with your thoughtful commentary.

      Reply
  6. James Sale

    I think these are lovely poems and also that the discussion of the meter is a little irrelevant; it is important to read for meaning first, and not to start expecting a meter in which we want to straitjacket the poem. The poet is not, anyway, always the best judge of their own meter: is ‘Footprints’ a trochee? Seems almost, or nearly, a spondee to me. But actually, is that important? What is beautiful are some of the wonderful images James Tweedie creates: the alabaster snake, for example, and I love the rhyme, or is it pararhyme, of ‘porcelain/in’, depending on how we pronounce these words. Wonderful stuff – well done James.

    Reply
    • James A. Tweedie

      James,

      Thank you for the compliments. I am also tickled to read your reference to the rhyme for “porcelain.” I originally rhymed that final couplet as follows:

      Dream-like fantasy—a fleeting moment when
      The world is made of diamond-crusted porcelain.

      =The word “when” rhymes with the way I casually pronounce “porcelain.” But a friend pointed out that it was only a near rhyme, and not precise. I then researched the word in a dozen different dictionaries and found only one that listed it as rhyming with “when.” There were several other listed pronunciations but the overwhelming consensus was that it is to be pronounced as I now have it in the poem, rhyming with “in.” Since it is a borrowed word from the French, and because of the wide variety of ways in which it can be pronounced (including rhyming with “pain”) I chose the one I hoped would be most universally embraced. It seems that any choice of a rhyme for this word would be considered a “near rhyme” by somebody or other. I suspect that even in France there may be regional variations. In any case, I spent twenty times more time and effort (literally days) working on that single couplet than I did on the rest of the poem–because of my desire to find a compatible rhyme for “porcelain!” Language is a funny thing, isn’t it? Especially when we are dealing with cross-cultural, cross-regional variations in syllabic accents and pronunciation. Your reference to it made me smile!

      Reply
      • James Sale

        Yes, it was a hard rhyme to find, but it might be a perfect rhyme; it’s one of those words where there are large variations in pronunciation. Of course, I loved its unexpectedness!! Great work – keep going!

  7. Sally Cook

    Dear James Tweedie –

    As in your response to my “Star Needles”, your description of a winter walk will stay with me.

    Thanks for your thoughtful and measured response to all of our comments.

    Perhaps mine may be a non-conventional way of going at meter, but these are my thoughts on it:
    As the world is composed of rhymes and rhythms; both universal and personal. various people respond to these in individual ways.
    There is certainly much to be said for experimentation, and that was not what bothered me about your meter. It was rather the fact that my response to the rhythms was so different from yours.
    Among other things, I particularly love sonnets, couplets, and interesting rhyme arrangements, all of which lie within my rhythmic pattern.
    You are an accomplished poet with many fine accoutrements to your work, and I will continue, as always, to look forward to any and all of your experiments, and to your more conventional poems. I have not as yet seen any poem by you that did not contain a plethora of wise and sensitive nuggets.

    Reply
  8. David Watt

    These poems display a skillful use of metaphor, and just the right balance of alliteration. Above all, they are wonderfully descriptive.

    Reply
  9. Jeff Nicholson

    Thank you, Mr. Tweedie, for sharing these beautiful poems filled with vivid imagery! I know the Long Beach Peninsula fairly well and would like to have seen it in this winter array. Though rural Battle Ground is not far, we did not receive as much in the way of frozen precipitation this time around.

    Reply

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