I Have Not The Cloudy Winds To Keep

John Keats (1795 – 1821)

Even bees, the little almsmen of spring bowers, know there is richest juice in poison flowers.

John Keats

On Seeing the Elgin Marbles

by John Keats

My spirit is too weak—mortality
Weighs heavily on me like unwilling sleep,
And each imagined pinnacle and steep
Of godlike hardship tells me I must die
Like a sick eagle looking at the sky.
Yet ‘tis a gentle luxury to weep,
That I have not the cloudy winds to keep,
Fresh for the opening of the morning’s eye.
Such dim-conceived glories of the brain
Bring round the heart an indescribable feud;
So do these wonders a most dizzy pain,
That mingles Grecian grandeur with the rude
Wasting of old Time—with a billowy main—
A sun—a shadow of a magnitude.


 

The Human Seasons

By John Keats 
 
Four Seasons fill the measure of the year;
     There are four seasons in the mind of man:
He has his lusty Spring, when fancy clear
     Takes in all beauty with an easy span:
He has his Summer, when luxuriously
     Spring’s honied cud of youthful thought he loves
To ruminate, and by such dreaming high
     Is nearest unto heaven: quiet coves
His soul has in its Autumn, when his wings
     He furleth close; contented so to look
On mists in idleness—to let fair things
     Pass by unheeded as a threshold brook.
He has his Winter too of pale misfeature,
.     . Or else he would forego his mortal nature. 

 



I’ll Take It All

Ada Limon

“Is the spring coming?” he said. “What is it like?”…

“It is the sun shining on the rain and the rain falling on the sunshine…”

Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden

Instructions on Not Giving Up

by Ada Limon

More than the fuchsia funnels breaking out
of the crabapple tree, more than the neighbor’s
almost obscene display of cherry limbs shoving
their cotton candy-colored blossoms to the slate
sky of Spring rains, it’s the greening of the trees
that really gets to me. When all the shock of white
and taffy, the world’s baubles and trinkets, leave
the pavement strewn with the confetti of aftermath,
the leaves come. Patient, plodding, a green skin
growing over whatever winter did to us, a return
to the strange idea of continuous living despite
the mess of us, the hurt, the empty. Fine then,
I’ll take it, the tree seems to say, a new slick leaf
unfurling like a fist to an open palm, I’ll take it all.

 
 

Young Lambs

by John Clare

The spring is coming by a many signs;
The trays are up, the hedges broken down,
That fenced the haystack, and the remnant shines
Like some old antique fragment weathered brown.
And where suns peep, in every sheltered place,
The little early buttercups unfold
A glittering star or two–till many trace
The edges of the blackthorn clumps in gold.
And then a little lamb bolts up behind
The hill and wags his tail to meet the yoe,
And then another, sheltered from the wind,
Lies all his length as dead–and lets me go
Close bye and never stirs but baking lies,
With legs stretched out as though he could not rise.

Child, We’ve Done Our Best

Delmore Schwartz

Heart’s Needle 2

by W. D. Snodgrass

 Late April and you are three; today
         We dug your garden in the yard.
    To curb the damage of your play,
Strange dogs at night and the moles tunneling,   
    Four slender sticks of lath stand guard   
         Uplifting their thin string.

    So you were the first to tramp it down.
         And after the earth was sifted close   
    You brought your watering can to drown
All earth and us. But these mixed seeds are pressed   
    With light loam in their steadfast rows.
         Child, we’ve done our best.

    Someone will have to weed and spread
         The young sprouts. Sprinkle them in the hour   
    When shadow falls across their bed.
You should try to look at them every day   
    Because when they come to full flower
         I will be away.


Do you ever feel like you just can’t get ahead of the sequence in which the order of things would make sense?   I wanted to plant a few fruit trees this spring, but the cold, wet, late spring has made that complicated.   I got 6 trees planted yesterday, blustery, rainy mid-40’s cloudy day, perfect for bare root trees, not so perfect for the gardener.   Now I have to figure out how to keep the deer off them until I can build a proper deer fence.   All my intentions for positioning the orchard were thrown out the window by unexpected complications in designing a new septic field.   We’ll see who wins, but it would have been so much easier if I could have built the fence first, then then plant the trees.     


 

Calmly We Walk through This April’s Day

By Delmore Schwartz (1913-1966)
 
 
Calmly we walk through this April’s day,   
Metropolitan poetry here and there,   
In the park sit pauper and rentier,   
The screaming children, the motor-car   
Fugitive about us, running away,   
Between the worker and the millionaire   
Number provides all distances,   
It is Nineteen Thirty-Seven now,   
Many great dears are taken away,   
What will become of you and me
(This is the school in which we learn …)   
Besides the photo and the memory?
(… that time is the fire in which we burn.)
 
(This is the school in which we learn …)   
What is the self amid this blaze?
What am I now that I was then
Which I shall suffer and act again,
The theodicy I wrote in my high school days   
Restored all life from infancy,
The children shouting are bright as they run   
(This is the school in which they learn …)   
Ravished entirely in their passing play!
(… that time is the fire in which they burn.)
 
Avid its rush, that reeling blaze!
Where is my father and Eleanor?
Not where are they now, dead seven years,   
But what they were then?
                                     No more? No more?
From Nineteen-Fourteen to the present day,   
Bert Spira and Rhoda consume, consume
Not where they are now (where are they now?)   
But what they were then, both beautiful;
 
Each minute bursts in the burning room,   
The great globe reels in the solar fire,   
Spinning the trivial and unique away.
(How all things flash! How all things flare!)   
What am I now that I was then?   
May memory restore again and again   
The smallest color of the smallest day:   
Time is the school in which we learn,   
Time is the fire in which we burn

The Bookman Comes

Jack The Giant Killer

How frail the bloom, how short the stay

That terminates us all!

Today we flourish green and gay,

Like leaves tomorrow fall.”

John Clare

To John Clare 

By John Clare (1793 – 1864)

Well, honest John, how fare you now at home?
The spring is come, and birds are building nests;
The old cock-robin to the sty is come,
With olive feathers and its ruddy breast;
And the old cock, with wattles and red comb,
Struts with the hens, and seems to like some best,
Then crows, and looks about for little crumbs,
Swept out by little folks an hour ago;
The pigs sleep in the sty; the bookman comes—
The little boy lets home-close nesting go,
And pockets tops and taws, where daisies blow,
To look at the new number just laid down,
With lots of pictures, and good stories too,
And Jack the Giant-killer’s high renown.
 

Prayer 

by John Untermeyer

God, though this life is but a wraith,
Although we know not what we use,
Although we grope with little faith,
Give me the heart to fight—and lose.

Ever insurgent let me be,
Make me more daring than devout;
From sleek contentment keep me free.
And fill me with a buoyant doubt.

Open my eyes to visions girt
With beauty, and with wonder lit—
But let me always see the dirt,
And all that spawn and die in it.

Open my ears to music; let
Me thrill with Spring’s first flutes and drums—
But never let me dare forget
The bitter ballads of the slums.

From compromise and things half-done,
Keep me, with stern and stubborn pride;
And when, at last, the fight is won
God, keep me still unsatisfied.

I Listen For Wind

Janice Gould (1949 – 2019)
 

Six Sonnets of The West

 
by Janice Gould
 
6
Her hand on my thigh, my shoulder,
in my hair. She leans over to kiss my cheek.
We look at each other, smile. For miles
we travel this way, nearly silent, point
with eyes or chins at the circling hawk, the king-
fisher on the snag above the swollen
creek. One night I weep in her arms
as she cries, “Oh, oh, oh!” because I have touched
her scars lightly: throat, belly, breasts.
In that communion of lovers, thick sobs
break from me as I think of my love
back home, all that I have done
and cannot say. This is the first time
I have left her so completely, so alone.


Cante Jondo

by Janice Gould

Wind taps the window at night,
whistles through cracks and keyholes,
summoning.  Along the snowy ridge
she moans a black siguiriya.

I work as darkness encloses my house,
sleep dreamlessly in the afternoon.
When I awaken, burning and hungry,
I listen for wind.  She’ll come

scratching holes in sandy soil,
kicking up gravel, sobbing and singing,
the train of her dark skirt
swaggering magnificently

So I Say To Thee

John-Donne
John Donne (1572 – 1631)

“I am two fools, I know, For loving, and for saying so.”

John Donne

The World’s Last Night

by John Donne

What if this present were the worlds last night?
Marke in my heart, O Soule, where thou dost dwell,
The picture of Christ crucified, and tell
Whether that countenance can thee affright,
Teares in his eyes quench the amasing light,
Blood fills his frownes, which from his pierc’d head fell.
And can that tongue adjudge thee unto hell,
Which pray’d forgivenesse for his foes fierce spight?
No, no; but as in my idolatrie
I said to all my profane mistresses,
Beauty, of pitty, foulnesse onely is
A signe of rigour: so I say to thee,
To wicked spirits are horrid shapes assign’d,
This beauteous forme assures a pitious minde.


Holy Sonnet: XII

by John Donne

WHY are wee by all creatures waited on?
Why doe the prodigall elements supply
Life and food to mee, being more pure than I,
Simple, and further from corruption?
Why brook’st thou, ignorant horse, subjection?
Why dost thou bull, and bore so seelily
Dissemble weaknesses and by’one mans stroke die,
Whose whole kinde, you might swallow and feed upon?
Weaker I am, woe is mee, and worse than you,
You have not sinn’d, nor need be timorous.
But wonder at a greater wonder, for to us
Created nature doth these things subdue,
But their Creator, whom sin, nor nature tyed,
For us, his Creatures, and his foes, hath dyed.

The Pearl Has Its Own Song

Mihaela Moscaliuc

The impulse to create is pure, self sufficient, its own reward or punishment.

Vernon Scannell, A Proper Gentleman.

Nettles

by Vernon Scannell (1922 – 2007)

My son aged three fell in the nettle bed.
‘Bed’ seemed a curious name for those green spears,
That regiment of spite behind the shed:
It was no place for rest. With sobs and tears
The boy came seeking comfort and I saw
White blisters beaded on his tender skin.
We soothed him till his pain was not so raw.
At last he offered us a watery grin,
And then I took my billhook, honed the blade
And went outside and slashed in fury with it
Till not a nettle in that fierce parade
Stood upright any more. And then I lit
A funeral pyre to burn the fallen dead,
But in two weeks the busy sun and rain
Had called up tall recruits behind the shed:
My son would often feel sharp wounds again.


Happy Easter.    It is a late spring after a cold winter in Minnesota.   In my part of the world, regardless the date Easter falls, the minute a farmer puts down his fork after eating ham on Easter Sunday, they think its time to start planting.   Patience will be required this year, as the soils are still too wet, the frost is still in the ground, and fields are not fit for spring planting activities to commence.   Fresh snow fell across much of the state in the past week.  A patient April reigns supreme.  

I am personally in need of a James Wright kind of spring; one where in a flourish I suddenly blossom, a spring where the world is in a hurry to become a kaleidoscope of color.  We don’t always get what we want.  We don’t even get what we need sometimes.   In the words of my Mother, a wise, long time kindergarten teacher, “you get what you get, so don’t get upset.”   It works for what’s left on the cookie plate and for dealing with mother nature.   

In contemplation of Easter’s story of sacrifice, I ponder if human kind is capable of evolving from a state of conflict to a process of resolution or is all peace a solitary and temporary detente?  I spent time reviewing religious sonnets with Easter themes and came away from all of them feeling grim. Not the kind of emotion I wanted to share today.  Instead I decided to think of Easter as a prayer for our collective sons.  What do we wish for our children?  Happiness, prosperity, a life well lived. When are we going to stop sending sons (and daughters) into contrived battles of our own making and set them free to live their own lives?  Conflict is a generational curse, passed down as an obligation, an inheritance, unless people have the courage to change course.  Who will change the course of the war in Ukraine?   If it left to the battle field, the conflict will only be seeded deeper in the fertile Ukrainian soil.  Easter can also be a story of transformation, rejuvenation, re-birth, the best of what Spring has to offer.  What re-birth awaits for you in the coming month?  What transformation do you summon the courage to awaken? 


Blessing

by Mihaela Moscaliuc

for my son, enwombed

May you harvest your language from the alphabet of butterflies, 
may their wings brushstroke your name on translucent scrolls, 
filter air for your breath, teach you flight the way I can’t.  

May you preserve the wisdom with which you arrive, 
the metaphors through which you’ll first parse the world,
the moon always a ripe banana, always within reach.  

May your fingers tease and probe all truths. 
It’s not the grain of sand, as we hold dear, but organisms 
wayward in their drift that, trapped, abrade the oyster’s flesh.  

Errant breather smothered into loveliness, 
the pearl has its own song. 
If you drag it ashore 

language loses meaning,
so bring your ear to the ocean floor.
There, neither fish nor son, eavesdrop. 

Neither fish nor son yet, 
call sister sister and lie awhile by the echo. 
While there, bless the echo and learn 

how to lie to me beautifully. 

Spring’s Thousand Tender Greens

Jane Kenyon (1947 – 1995)

“Be a good steward of your gifts. Protect your time. Feed your inner life. Avoid too much noise. Read good books, have good sentences in your ears. Be by yourself as often as you can. Walk. Take the phone off the hook. Work regular hours.”

Jane Kenyon

April Chores

by Jane Kenyon

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.


The Clearing

by Jane Kenyon

The dog and I push through the ring
of dripping junipers
to enter the open space high on the hill
where I let him off the leash.

He vaults, snuffling, between tufts of moss;
twigs snap beneath his weight; he rolls
and rubs his jowls on the aromatic earth;
his pink tongue lolls.

I look for sticks of proper heft
to throw for him, while he sits, prim
and earnest in his love, if it is love.

All night a soaking rain, and now the hill
exhales relief, and the fragrance
of warm earth. The sedges
have grown an inch since yesterday,
and ferns unfurled, and even if they try
the lilacs by the barn can’t
keep from opening today.

I longed for spring’s thousand tender greens,
and the white-throated sparrow’s call
that borders on rudeness. Do you know—
since you went away
I’ve done little
but wait for you to come back to me.

All The Trembling World

Louis Untermeyer (1885 – 1977)

Laughter shall drown the raucous shout;

And, though these shelt’ring walls are thin,

May they be strong to keep hate out

And hold love in.

Louis Untermeyer

 Feuerzauber

by Louis Untermeyer

I never knew the earth had so much gold—
The fields run over with it, and this hill
Hoary and old,
Is young with buoyant blooms that flame and thrill.

Such golden fires, such yellow—lo, how good
This spendthrift world, and what a lavish God—
This fringe of wood,
Blazing with buttercup and goldenrod.

You too, beloved, are changed. Again I see
Your face grow mystical, as on that night
You turned to me,
And all the trembling world—and you—were white.

Aye, you are touched; your singing lips grow dumb;
The fields absorb you, color you entire….
And you become
A goddess standing in a world of fire!


Faith

by Louis Untermeyer

What are we bound for? What’s the yield
Of all this energy and waste?
Why do we spend ourselves and build
With such an empty haste?

Wherefore the bravery we boast?
How can we spend one laughing breath
When at the end all things are lost
In ignorance and death? . . .

The stars have found a blazing course
In a vast curve that cuts through space;
Enough for us to feel that force
Swinging us through the days.

Enough that we have strength to sing
And fight and somehow scorn the grave;
That Life’s too bold and bright a thing
To question or to save.

Eccentric and Reckless

A spinning gyroscope.

Gyroscope

By Howard Nemerov
 
This admirable gadget, when it is
Wound on a string and spun with steady force,
Maintains its balance on most any smooth
Surface, pleasantly humming as it goes.
It is whirled not on a constant course, but still
Stands in unshivering integrity
For quite some time, meaning nothing perhaps
But being something agreeable to watch,
A silver nearly silence gleaning a still-
ness out of speed, composing unity
From spin, so that its hollow spaces seem
Solids of light, until it wobbles and
Begins to whine, and then with an odd lunge
Eccentric and reckless, it skids away
And drops dead into its own skeleton.
 
 

When I was a little boy, mine was the kind of toy box that contained a gyroscope, tops of various sorts, a microscope, magnifying glasses, bottles and bug collectors and other assortments of things that were not strictly toys, they were ways to investigate the world.  If I reflect on it, I spent the vast majority of my play time engaged in a study of physics.  Isn’t that what a frisbee is ultimately, a tool for the study of physics?  Also a hot wheel car set upon a track with no power other than the size of the height of the encyclopedias I would concoct, to get the best run and series of undulations, right down  to the last book, so that the car could make it to the end of the track that I had created through the living room and down the long hall way.  Climbing trees, is a study in physics, so is riding a bike, ping pong, baseball.   The problem with electronics is a video game is not a study in physics, it is a study in communication.  I preferred the world when it was dominated by the former.

I have had a hard time of late finding anything relevant to add to the poems I have been sharing.  It is hard to watch the world be ill, seriously ill.  I feel like we are watching our planet spin like a gyroscope, on its axis, like it always has and we have assumed it always will.  Suddenly it has begun to wobble and without our collective imaginations to get it spinning at the proper speed again, its at risk of falling over, motionless and emotionless.  Is emotion an extension of motion?  Does that mean it is an extension of physics, our physical selves?   

I spent some time this week in unbridled play, sheer silliness, like children chasing after a ball.   There was no point to the 2 hours other than to have fun.   There was nothing profound about it, yet the time was utterly transforming for the emotions of the group.   Everyone came away energized, excited, closer.   Why don’t we play with our friends more? The great tragedy of the COVID pandemic is not just the millions of lives lost, but also the life lost of the living.   We started seeing our friends as something to avoid, something we had to protect ourselves from, rather than the cure to what ails us all.  Netflix and books and social media can not replace playing with your friends.  Electronics can not replace physics.  Physics is what makes the world go round.  I think we have to re-imagine our futures, like Stevenson.  But this time, let’s imagine a future without toy soldiers, without any soldiers.  Let’s get the planet spinning again at its proper speed, sustainably, enthusiastically. 

FYI –  a counterpane is a quilt or bedspread. 


 

The Land of Counterpane

Robert Louis Stevenson – 1850-1894

When I was sick and lay a-bed,

I had two pillows at my head,
And all my toys beside me lay
To keep me happy all the day.

And sometimes for an hour or so
I watched my leaden soldiers go,
With different uniforms and drills,
Among the bed-clothes, through the hills;

And sometimes sent my ships in fleets
All up and down among the sheets;
Or brought my trees and houses out,
And planted cities all about.

I was the giant great and still
That sits upon the pillow-hill,
And sees before him, dale and plain,
The pleasant land of counterpane.