A Winter Memory



The first thing she said when she entered the house

             How cold it is –

             [the letter, her little footprint

             a sprinkling of fine snow]



She had lost her handkerchief. When I offered her mine she wept. ‘Dry your tears,

Madelon,’ her mother said.



‘It would not have been out of place in the most romantic of novels.’ While Cousin

H recounted her dream, Madelon was silent.



a habitual expression that suggested discontent/the most curious sensation/ a child’s

small snowshoe/



‘To legitimate her amorous fantasies –’
‘unnatural’ [pensive]
an intense yet innocent attachment



The case study was slow to become established there. This has been attributed to the

deep winters, with the well known difficulty of moving between one place and

another, particularly in areas considered remote or obscure. ‘Desire had simply

become fixed, immobile.’ It’s deathlike appearance, which he related to a persistent

coldness. Their breath rising in unison, as they gazed together at the white page.



He was familiar with the latest developments in neuroscience and abnormal

psychology. The sea-horse and obstetric frog. Many rare birds. The

astonishment of his family when he set aside hours of study to explore the

polar regions. A carelessness for his own safety and a derring-do which

made him an object of fascination to the women of the household, due to

the long hours spent in overheated rooms. ‘No expense should be spared for

our Madelon.’ Dr J- bared his teeth in a wolfish manner.



She confessed that in her youth she had spent many hours at the harpsichord. Its

plangent notes reminded her of the determined pecking of chickens as they took

grain from her hand – but where was the snow? In winter they roosted in the trees.

Gazing through the window she sensed the looming presence of her thoughts, dark

shapes reflected in the glass regardless of the effusions of light. The dull beginnings

of a headache. Footprints in the snow revealed the route the hunters had taken into

the forest.



The relinquishment he demanded as a love offering. ‘But it is so small a thing, and

means so much to me.’ Pleading, refusal. A bargain made and broken. ‘Madelon

refuses to cooperate.’ Yet no one could fault the ease, born of practice, with which

she tied knots in ropes, or the graceful swing of her ice axe.




Alison Glenny is a graduate of the IIML. Her collection of prose poems and fragments The Farewell Tourist was published by Otago University Press in 2018. She is currently an Ursula Bethell writer in residence at the University of Canterbury.