Shang-te (Old sign: Sagitarius) My father always reminded us that his favorite day was the Winter Solstice because thence forth until time journeys to that summer solstice pole, the days will be longer and brighter. You will survive the darkest days. But do not let the light make you complacent. (blank space) If you can read the writings in the blank space above, there may be some hope for you yet. If you cannot, do not despair! But temper your expectations for the afterlife.
Gih-na-sha (Old sign: Capricorn) Thinking can be such a bother. Take a moon off from any serious cognition. Your brain needs a hibernation-mode. Have you tried Kratom? For your back? Or whatever. Pain is pain. Have you seen the documentary? You know how you get when you find some windfall opiate. Get the drugs and board a mode of transportation. Now you are walking the wintery emptiness of Vienna. Vienna is strange: part museum, part harem, part dubstep concerto. You smoke French cigarettes and Arabian hash and wrap a cashmere scarf round your neck and adjust your jaunty cap against the wind. What compelled you to come here to this strange landlocked land and doff your jaunty cap to the mummy majesty of a bygone empire? Austria is the brackwater of sweet East and salty West, where the salty West survives but just… Turks exchanged coffee and murder here. Mozart’s cradle and Hitler’s. Such places are everywhere dotting the globe. But here the frontier is particularly strange. Smacking of catholic glitz and soviet brutalism. This place you are in this winter requires deftness and care. Be careful in the brackwater. Never get pulled too far either way and you will survive the season.
Hahp-e (Old sign: Aquarius) The wheat berries are pale and wan. Will your store last through March? Your gruels will become thinner. Rancid walnuts are a crapshoot, but you’ve got to get creative. Chaplin ate his own shoe. You will scrape the gruel pot like a cauldron of life-giving golden manna slag. Carve up your best leathers and marinate for ten days. Bake them at 350 for seven hours. Not bad with some relish. You pine for a good knish. Good spicy mustard. The lack of food will haunt your dreams. The Ukrainians ate their belts. Even a bit of boiled grass sounds appetizing. You dream of sitting on a sunny hill in Switzerland smoking potpourri. You dream of warm streams teeming with rainbow trout. Let this Winter of Gruel be a lesson to you for next winter.
Hehk-eht (Old sign: Pisces) The Romance of self-immolation gives you a tingle. What’s with that? What about your glorious downfall is so stimulating? Your heart is bursting from your chest with the quest to fall and bring as many of your enemies with you. You’ve been in a morbid mood this moon and you have the sudden and hysterical, albeit understandable, desire to procreate. This season is not inauspicious for conception of all kinds. That start-up? That wild idea you have? That unplanned parenthood? If you build it, it will be fun! You have ideas, you just need more time! You always had great ideas, great ideas, like that restaurant commercial from some decades ago wherein a sneaky patron steals free servings of the restaurant’s famous house salsa by means of a subtle pumping device cleverly hidden in his oversized coat. He is caught when his coat is full to bursting, and his insightful and empathetic server informs the patron in flagrante that he can now purchase the famous salsa in the store.
Kah-le (Old sign: Aries) Into the blizzard, into the blizzard, up the mountain we go; there in the gizzard a frost buzzard gurgles the rocks and chum and the bran. The rookeries are hanging low. They weigh 80 stone bone dry. But now the snow weighs the cuckoo houses down. Wind knocks wet plops of snow atop an hysterically old rookery. The nest crumbles and cascades into the lake below. Frozen lizards, frozen lizards lick the ice from their eyes. A salamander is born in icy fires. The purple-pink hands grasp a crystal cricket. In the thicket, in the crystal thicket, a wild rose blooms, a bloody loadstone that draws all eyes in this colorless world. Whirling snow sticks to your eyelashes and forces you to shut your eyes tightly. Even behind your eyelids, you see the rose. In the darkened domes of lidded sight, rippling halos of light alternately emanate and absorb into the labyrinth of silken petals and scatter down the spiny stem. Have you moved at all? You vaguely feel your legs moving but the whole world is whirling, and you cannot stop. The centripetal petals draw you closer to this little hub. In the proximity of the rose’s influences, you feel a distinct and familiar warmth, and the frost flakes melt from your eyes, and you are blinking with uncommon awe.
Ah-naht ( Old sign: Taurus) Let’s make love in this wasteland. I have a good bottle of wine. Everything else is gone. The retreating troops are gone. The storm of steel is gone. And it’s now as dementedly quiet as it was once dementedly loud. The soldiers have taken our crops, salted our furrows, dug up our railroad, made bow ties of the rails, felled our trees, poisoned our wells, killed my goat and his she-goat, walked away with my best egg-layers under their arms, burnt our vineyards and all our fields, pulled the walls of our homes from their foundations and cratered our town like the moon. They robbed the butcher, the baker and the tobacconist, understandable for an army that eats millions of tons of fodder each month and drinks rivers dry. But they also robbed for fun: they robbed the tailor of his best shears, took the blacksmith’s anvil and threw it in the river. They took our mayor’s top hat and his wife, set our library alight and threw down the bell of our kirk. The faeries are all gone and the faery stones are worn down to skullcaps scarcely higher than the hairy green wintergrass. So let’s make love in the wasteland before the storms return.
Eh-shu (Old sign: Gemini) In the square you see the microcosm of the disorder that rules your existence; you spy your mark. Look at your hands! Look at your cracked and chapped hands; the webbing betwixt the fingers has tiny bloody fissures from all the washing; you have tried everything, even Cornhuskers and mittens, but that is nothing against the need of washing. How do you expect to be slight of hand with your hands in such a state? As long as you have sticky fingers you’ll need to wash them off.
Tah-na (Old sign: Cancer) Pando is dying, Tane, and we need your succor. Deep in the crags of the American State of Utah, the Trembling Giant has reigned over this land for 80,000 circuits around the Sun and is dying a death by countless cuts. The mule deer and squirrels and rabbits and badgers and wolverines relentlessly chew the juicy tops of his clonal saplings, and the old withered and wizened trunks are all that stand. What do the greybeards say to each other? Like all the old, they eat and fart and talk about their youth. Stories of fires, and storms and drought and flood. The excitement of an ancient horses stampeding over his tender roots. The arrival of men for 60,000th birthday. The quaint curriculum of the clones. The greybeards complain about the younger clones. Not as tough. Not as spry and branny. Thinner trunks and papery bark. Their sprouts are juicier and deliciouser than the vinegary elders’ limbs. Whoever is to blame, Pando, a copious eunuch no longer. What being will take thy place, Giant? Will there ever be a larger single link in Earth’s chain of being? Tane, you know Pando is the last of his kind. Stand vigil with him the rest of the winter. Shoo away the nibblers and give him fluids.
Marutuk (Old sign: Leo) Snowflakes on corpses and dried corpse-skin mittens Cylindrical cylinders made up with clay Contracts will break on the first of May. Cuneiform ledgers and holes filled with badgers. Lovers and leavers will come with their baggagers. Mad men will hide their treasures away. Mad men will find a krater, a torque, a Bronze Age, sexy-time, votive statue. Stay awhile and get to know the statue: the countless ancient hands that caressed the care-worn smoothness of the figurine. You find the tactile sensation calming, not excitatory. You will return to your tent at the edge of the pit and sleep soundly through the snowstorm. Entropy will make ice mummies of us all, but not today.
Kah-noom (Old sign: Virgo) Virgins play your piano in the dark, Khnum. The music is eerie and wistful. Almost a winter’s dirge. We all know you’ve thought about it. Will the virgins be safe in your care? Will they be safe from others and will they be safe from you? You are wont to creating life in the cozy indoorland of winter. It is not auspicious. One of the virgins has a bad hip. One may have another chromosome. You must protect them. They must be allowed to fulfill their destiny and journey to beautiful Puerto Vallarta. The virgins must be allowed to fatten themselves on tortas of al pastor and beans and cheese. When they are ready they will give virgin birth and you must divine all you can from their labors.
Hih-fes-tuhs (Old sign: Libra) You got the working-man blues again. Your hammers are heavier, and you are not striking true. You go down into the mines just to take in the vapors and get out of your shop. It is always colder than Hades down in the mines but in Winter the minekeeper tends a small hearth. He is a stout carl, almond-shaped. You could listen to his histories the rest of winter. All of his functional golems are proceeding inexorably, chewing bit by bit deeper into the rock and the ore and the mineral. Several golems gave up the ghost last winter and stand slouching in seeming dejection in the gloom. The mine is so cold that the leavings of generations of miners give one a good account of the ancients’ livelihood. A pile of broken clay smoking pipes. Here a leather pack and there a discarded pick axe. Dice carved of bone and worn. Shiny stacks of coins stand around the dice. The players will return to the game someday. Return to your work after this needed respite. Task initiation was always your bugaboo.
Ter (Old sign: Scorpio) Upon the Zone of Plucking in the Formation of Tarns and Cirques. Abrade. Abrade. Are you afraid of joint stones chattering on the rock? Loch, loch, Lochnagar! Triggered in the morning and vaporized the Bosch, caboche, smashed upon the dashing point. Debride, debride. Will the glaciertide give us a lake, an alpine lake, or an amphitheater to play our play? Dum ditty dum ditty dum dum dum. Hum and drum, the monkey’s rum! The scales of justice are overburdened this moon. What can account for this imbalance? Bedrock plucked up in due glaciertide. Cracking and freezing and freezing and cracking give us a place to mount our cycle. Cirque de Mole— sauce, sauce is a word, sauce is a soothing curd. Spiceless on my tongue. The Von Trapps voices echo in the bowl.