When winter is deepest, we long
For the warm days of spring–
the birds, the buds, the piercing of snow.
Yet, the warm days are inside us
like love, waiting to be resurrected with joy.
We acclimate to early spring,
Wind, rain, and fifty degrees,
Chopin’s Nocturne in C sharp minor,
Because the world is opening to us,
Like the gentlest of heavens.
Poplar buds, sticky with resin,
Ready to be picked from their branches,
Mixed, and set aside to ferment in oil.
A balm for brokenness:
Stir together early spring toad-sound,
Coming to us from a darkened pasture
Where it overflowed with melted snow
And rain, a pair of killdeer nesting
Out by the north fence among the dry grasses,
And the aspen, still bare, but breaking in buds.
I’ll describe early spring,
because it’s easier
than describing fear:
waking at one a.m.
in a terrible dream.
Where are you?
Why don’t you answer?
It’s forty degrees,
and the wind is rattling
the darkness and the chimes.
Everything is touched:
the willow, the aspen, and the roses
just beginning to break
into the tiniest buds.
Yet, still bare, still silent,
still waving their branches,
like I see you, waving your arms.
I think the aspen is happy today,
The way the robin perched
On its bare branches.
The skin of her feet,
The skin of that branch,
One warm body pulsing blood,
The other pulsing with spring sap.
To be touched after so long,
As your buds begin to break
The surface of what separates:
Your ability to drink of the sun,
And that long and naked loneliness.
I said the aspen was naked,
But maybe it’s me that’s naked.
The older I get,
The more naked I feel,
Like the aspen stripped by winter.
Its bare limbs standing still
In the fog, are they my limbs?
Will it wake in spring?
Will I wake in spring?
A few words might satisfy
The feverish yearning of my soul
for some master-thought,
That should guide me
Through this labyrinth of life,
Teaching wherefore I was born,
And how to do my task on earth,
And what is death.
Nathaniel Hawthorne, from Monsieur du Miroir
When the shadow is lifted,
There’s the only the boy,
And the first thing he does
Is become a man,
(Maybe sensing himself for the first time)
The buffer is gone; it’s him alone,
And a great wonder swells in his mind,
What can I do?
His eyes focus
On the yellow of the weeping willow against snow,
The sun caught and frozen there,
And he hears and turns his head
toward the cardinal whose red coat flashes
In front of him, like blood against snow.
He thinks of his dad standing amazed
at that same blood-red plumage,
And the man before him,
and before him, and so on.
There is nothing he can do now, at this time,
Except reflect and build energy
toward his own springtime,
And picture himself budding there,
His roots laid deep in the soil of his ancestry,
Their many failings,
(He still feels it)
Their many successes,
All of it now merging.
He knows, this will be his own final push,
Man, alone, stripped,
Stretching his whole being toward a sun
That is so often obscured,
So often, radiant and warm.