Sunday, December 06, 2009


"If Winter Comes . . .": Twelve Spring Poems

"Make It New"

Look how the soft leaves of the pear
hang limply under its rain-filled flowers
like wings from a still wet cocoon,
not yet extended.

Below me in the glistening haze the rain
strings glass beads on magenta gauze
and the chartreuse unfoldings of the birch.

The oriole
hasn't bored me yet.

-- M. Travis Lane

* * *

"Wisteria Floribunda"

Half drunk
on the heavy scent
of purple,

I almost expect
the naked

to step from behind
their fringed
and beaded

to the electric thrum
of bees.

-- Linda Pastan

* * *

"To a Cherry Tree in Bloom"

To awake, to be on an April morning
the whiteness of that cherry tree;
to burn from leaves to root,
to flower just like that, to blossom poetry.

To open one's arms, to gather in one's branches
wind, light, or whatever it might be;
to feel time, strand by strand,
weaving a cherry's heart in a cherry tree.

-- Eugenio de Andrade
translated from the Portuguese by Alexis Levitin

* * *

"Picking Daffodils"

They have spilled their slippery juices over me
let fall saliva from their long green stems
Their viscous threads of water swing into my house
remind me of the waters of your mouth

-- P. K. Page

* * *


The long path sap sludges up
through an iris, is it new
each spring? And what should
an iris care for novelty?
Urgent in tatters, it wants
to wrest what routine it can
from the ceaseless shifts
of weather, from the scrounge
it feeds on to grow beautiful
and bigger: last week the space
about to be rumpled
by iris petals was only air
through which a rabbit leapt,
a volley of heartbeats hardly
contained by fur, and then the clay-
colored spaniel in pursuit
and the effortless air
rejoining itself whole.

-- William Matthews

* * *

"The Wind Has So Much To Tell This Spring"

The wind has so
to tell

this spring. I haven't heard
for years,

he huffs
and puffs
in bare trees:

wills them to quicken
and break into green!
Cuffs the roof-ridge:

wills, wills them
to quicken!
And so he's

back in the trees,
shaking them
by the scruff

with a rough blast
and a sharp!

round corners,
in last year's leaves

and flicks
a twirl
of them up --

they're dry now,
dry --

scampers across
the field, whirls up

comes back, puts on
an old black hat
and is gone --

Come back!
Come back!

-- Olav H. Hauge
translated from the Norwegian by Robin Fulton

* * *

"Spring Tide"

I seem lower than the distant waves,
Their roar diluting to the stillness
Of the sea's progression across these flats,
A map of water so adjusted
It behaves like a preservative
and erases neither the cattle's
And the sheep's nor my own footprints.
I leave hieroglyphics under glass
As well as feathers that hardly budge,
Down abandoned at preening places
That last so long as glassy islands
Where swans unravel among the ferns.

It isn't really a burial mound
Reflected there, but all that remains
Of a sandy meadow, a graveyard
Where it was easy to dig the graves.
The spring tide circles and excavates
A shrunken ramshackle pyramid
Rinsing cleaner scapulae, tibias,
Loose teeth, cowrie and nautilus shells
Before seeping after sun and moon
To pour cupfuls in the larks' nests,
To break a mirror on the grazing
And lift minnows over the low bridge.

The spring tide has ferried jelly fish
To the end of the lane, pinks, purples,
Wet flowers beside the floating cow-pats.
The zig-zags I make take me among
White cresses and brookweed, lousewort,
Water plantain and grass of parnassus
With engraved capilleries, ivory sheen:
By a drystone wall in the dune slack
The greenish sepals, the hidden blush
And a lip's red veins and yellow spots --
March helleborine waiting for me
To come and go with the spring tide.

-- Michael Longley

* * *

"April Chores"

When I take the chilly tools
from the shed's darkness, I come
out to a world made new
by heat and light.

The snake basks and dozes
on a large flat stone.
It reared and scolded me
for raking too close to its hole.

Like a mad red brain
the involute rhubarb leaf
thinks its way up
through loam.

-- Jane Kenyon

* * *

"Before a Departure in Spring"

Once more it is April with the first light sifting
through the young leaves heavy with dew making the colors
remember who they are the new pink of the cinnamon tree
the gilded lichens of the bamboo the shadowed bronze
of the kamani and the blue day opening
as the sunlight descends through it all like the return
of a spirit touching without touch and unable
to believe it is here and here again and awake
reaching out in silence into the cool breath
of the garden just risen from darkness and days of rain
it is only a moment the birds fly though it calling
to each other and are gone with their few notes and the flash
of their flight that had vanished before we ever knew it
we watch without touching any of it and we
can tell ourselves only that this is April this is the morning
this never happened before and we both remember it

-- W. S. Merwin

* * *

"Night's End"

In sleety dark
the bouquet'd trees
are held deep, under earth.

Slow flambeaux.

Green life doused still by the
pale rainswollen clouds.

Grass now watercress-green through melting ice.

Unlidded, skylit world.

-- Margaret Avison

* * *


Surprised by spring,
by the green light fallen like snow
in a single evening,
by hawthorn, blackthorn, willow,
meadow -- everything
woken again, after how many thousand years?

That generous throat
is a blackbird's. Now, a thrush.
And that ribbon flung out,
that silk voice, is a chaffinch's rush
to his grace-note. Birds woo,
or apportion the innocent air they're made for.
Whom do they sing for?

Old may by the river --
spread out like a cross in the sun,
feet bare and stared at
by three grubby children -- you've made it again,
and yes we'll inherit a summer.
Always the same green clamouring fells you that wakes you.
And you have to start living again when it wakes you.

-- Anne Stevenson

* * *

"The Lilies"

Amid the gray trunks of ancient trees we found
the gay woodland lilies nodding on their stems,
frail and fair, so delicately balanced the air
held or moved them as it stood or moved.
The ground that slept beneath us woke in them
and made a music of the light, as it had waked
and sung in fragile things unnumbered years,
and left their kind no less symmetrical and fair
for all that time. Does my land have the health
of this, where nothing falls but into life?

-- Wendell Berry

* * *
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