Ian Heffernan




Hunters in the Snow

Pieter Breugel the Elder

This is where the ground falls away
And the hunters start their descent.
Cold, tired and more-than-defeated
They contemplate the gradient
While their dogs nose their way through snow,
Tails down, cold and tired too; above
A bird is swallowed by its flight;
Below are tiny silhouettes:
Skaters, game-players, watching friends,
Who show us life’s vernacular;
Beyond, dull white-grey land slinks off
Or rises to fictitious peaks.

Out of view three wives are waiting
And stirred by a presentiment
Of failure, they begin to coax
Their husbands out of  their absence.
Faces, names reassume themselves.
The hunters enter winter rooms
To brave unasked-for franknesses,
Taut wisecracks, sadness like a kick.
For half an afternoon perhaps
Their women chunner, tut and fleer
But then grow calm and love again
Without condition or concern.

This, though, is no scene of return.
It looks like that, but think: these men
Have been in earshot of silence
Out there where the blank air gathers,
Observing light conspire with snow.
So even when they’ve bathed and fed,
Made love, got drunk and slept, all three
Remain exiles from the moment,
Not fully present in their homes.
The best that they can do is fold
Experience into meaning
Then fold away the meaning too.




Ian Heffernan was born just outside London, where he still lives. He graduated from UCL and SOAS and now works with the homeless. His work has been published recently in the High Window, Ink, Sweat & Tears, Cha, Antiphon, South Bank Poetry, London Grip, Under the Radar and elsewhere.

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