Gabriel Griffin


Early morning crackled like a cellophaned bouquet;
no one tramped in but us. The keeper’s cigarette smoke-
ringed our breath; we stamped our boots and I
half-wished to shake them off and, socked as in a mosque,
slide gliding down the silent, frozen halls.

The gold we had expected, not the winter light
that shattered through long windows, splintered,
flashed, reflected in tall mirrors, in crystal drops
of chandeliers, in your green-gold eyes. I looked
at you, you looked around; I guessed
that all this gold was setting you on fire –
we were in Paris on the cheap, and cold.

I thought to cool the ardent flames that, flickering,
enrosed your skin. Let’s go outside. But outside
dazzled even more than in: hoarfrost had tossed
its crystal needles in the night: terrace, fountains,
statues, paths and sculptured trees shimmered
in a white and lunar light. I took your hand – it burned.

We stepped through freezing, frozen gardens, no one
but us, monarchs in worn overcoats not thick enough,
watched by winking eyes, by courtiers of ice, spied on
by squinting frost. We kept our secrets to ourselves, afraid
we might be overheard, misunderstood; soon abandoned
Paris, one going south, the other north. Neither had said
one word of the words that needed saying then
to melt that ice. The words are frozen in my head.

Winter morning visit to the sun king’s palace by Gabriel Griffin won second prize in the Sentinel Literary Quarterly Poetry Competition (February 2019) judged by Mandy Pannett.

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