“Green was the silence, wet was the light, the month of June trembled like a butterfly.”Pablo Neruda
A Calendar of Sonnets: July
by Helen Hunt Jackson
Some flowers are withered and some joys have died;
The garden reeks with an East Indian scent
From beds where gillyflowers stand weak and spent;
The white heat pales the skies from side to side;
But in still lakes and rivers, cool, content,
Like starry blooms on a new firmament,
White lilies float and regally abide.
In vain the cruel skies their hot rays shed;
The lily does not feel their brazen glare.
In vain the pallid clouds refuse to share
Their dews, the lily feels no thirst, no dread.
Unharmed she lifts her queenly face and head;
She drinks of living waters and keeps fair.
Having traveled rural Minnesota, North and South Dakota and parts of Wisconsin roads for all of my career, I can tell you orange day lilies (Hermerocallis fulva) are ubiquitous along roadsides and at the end of driveways of farms and rural properties. Mistakenly called Tiger lilies sometimes, because of the orange coloring, this day lily is an introduced species that has gone rogue and grows wild. I am rather fond of this perennial, invasive or not, as it reminds me of roads traveled as a child. I am rather pleased there is a nice clump thriving at the end of our driveway, no surprise as its close to a wetland/seasonal creek and is the perfect setting for this plant. Obviously day lilies came west with settlers early on, a tuber tucked away to brighten up a vegetable garden. To the orange day lilies credit, it is hearty enough to take care of itself and naturalize into areas in which it was never cultivated. I find Jackson’s reference to the lily in her poem a reminder of how gardeners observations don’t change much over time.
I am far enough along in the Fourteenlines project, that I have an archive of drafts I have set aside waiting for the right time to possibly use them. I was surprised as I reviewed potential July drafts there were a number of Robert Frost poems waiting for me that I have found over the past year or so. Frost’s talent sneaks up on me. I tend to not think of him when people ask me who are my favorite poets, and yet I find myself more and more attracted to his poetry.
The poem below maybe hard to interpret unless you have some experience with an old fashioned well. A well-curb is a masonry, stone or brick structure around the above ground portion of a well that protects anyone from falling in it and also to keep things out from contaminating the water. If you have never lived on a property with a well, modern or old, you may not have an understanding of the frequent ways you interact with your water source. To relate to this poem, you have to become a little boy or a curious adult, who is fascinated by the cool water that comes out of the well and likely the hand made structure from stone and mortar or concrete or brick that protects this vital asset of your home and farm. Wells were hand dug in the 19th century, generally maintained by the family and a source of clear, sweet drinking water was something to be prized. Frost’s poem below is an opportunity to transport yourself back in time, when water didn’t come out of the tap, and see the wonder that lays just beyond our reach.
For Once, Then, Something
Robert Frost – (1874-1963)
Others taunt me with having knelt at well-curbs
Always wrong to the light, so never seeing
Deeper down in the well than where the water
Gives me back in a shining surface picture
Me myself in the summer heaven godlike
Looking out of a wreath of fern and cloud puffs.
Once, when trying with chin against a well-curb,
I discerned, as I thought, beyond the picture,
Through the picture, a something white, uncertain,
Something more of the depths—and then I lost it.
Water came to rebuke the too clear water.
One drop fell from a fern, and lo, a ripple
Shook whatever it was lay there at bottom,
Blurred it, blotted it out. What was that whiteness?
Truth? A pebble of quartz? For once, then, something.