Thunder Snow!

file1-1 (1)
A Foot or Two?  Record Breaking Snow in Minneapolis April 14-15, 2018

 

A Dust of Snow

by Robert Frost

The way a crow

Shook down on me

The dust of snow
From a hemlock tree
Has given my heart
A change of mood
And saved some part
Of a day I had rued.

 

I have a friend who is a self professed crow by nature.   I was fortunate to be under the sway of her good nature and inquisitive spirit during the recent snow storm and it reminded me of Robert Frost’s playful poem.  We actually experienced the phenomenon of thunder snow on Friday night, complete with lightning as snow flakes came down.

For as powerful a metaphor that snow provides there are surprisingly few sonnets that have snow as a central character.   The most famous is Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s sonnet The Cross of Snow, written about the tragic death of his wife Fanny.   Its a sad poem that doesn’t fit the humor of this April blizzard, so I rejected it as a fit in favor of Claude McKays more optimistic ode.  McKay’s wish for winter to stick around a little longer has been granted here in Minnesota, but fair warning any Frosty the Snowman,  temperatures are forecast in the mid 40’s the rest of the week, so the snow will disappear quickly and the robins can get back to building nests.

Our snowfall totals for the year are actually about average, it only felt like 15 feet.   For a little good clean snow-white fun, check out Nick Cave’s video below.


To Winter

by Claude McKay
Stay, season of calm love and soulful snows!
There is a subtle sweetness in the sun,
The ripples on the stream’s breast gaily run,
The wind more boisterously by me blows,
And each succeeding day now longer grows.
The birds a gladder music have begun,
The squirrel, full of mischief and of fun,
From maples’ topmost branch the brown twig throws.
I read these pregnant signs, know what they mean:
I know that thou art making ready to go.
Oh stay! I fled a land where fields are green
Always, and palms wave gently to and fro,
And winds are balmy, blue brooks ever sheen,
To ease my heart of its impassioned woe.

Those Who Know

shutterstock-garvey
Marcus Garvey

 

I am not proud that I am bold
Or proud that I am black.
Color was given me as a gauge
And boldness came with that.

Helene Johnson

The Tired Worker

By Claude McKay

O whisper, O my soul! The afternoon
Is waning into evening, whisper soft!
Peace, O my rebel heart! for soon the moon
From out its misty veil will swing aloft!
Be patient, weary body, soon the night
Will wrap thee gently in her sable sheet,
And with a leaden sigh thou wilt invite
To rest thy tired hands and aching feet.
The wretched day was theirs, the night is mine;
Come tender sleep, and fold me to thy breast.
But what steals out the gray clouds like red wine?
O dawn! O dreaded dawn! O let me rest
Weary my veins, my brain, my life! Have pity!
No! Once again the harsh, the ugly city.


 

Those Who Know

by Marcus Garvey

You may not know, and that is all
That causes you to fail in life;
All men should know, and thus not fall
The victims of the heartless strife.
Know what? Know what is right and wrong,
Know just the things that daily count,
That go to make all life a song,
And cause the wise to climb the mount.

To make man know, is task, indeed,
For some are prone to waste all time:
It’s only few who see the need
To probe and probe, then climb and climb,
The midnight light, the daily grind,
Are tasks that count for real success
In life of those not left behind,
Whom Nature chooses then to bless.

The failing men you meet each day,
Who curse their fate, and damn the rest,
Are just the sleeping ones who play
While others work to reach the best.
All life must be a useful plan,
That calls for daily, serious work-
The work that wrings the best from man-
The work that cowards often shirk.

All honour to the men who know,
By seeking after Nature’s truths:
In wisdom they shall ever grow,
While others hum the awful “blues”
Go now and search for what there is-
The knowledge of the Universe-
Make it yours, as the other, his,
And be as good, but not the worse.

Watch With Wonder-Eyes

claude-mckay_photograph-from-the-1920s
Claude McKay

“Poems are handbooks for human decency and understanding. Poets hold water in their cupped hands and run back from the well because someone is parched and thirsting. The poem is a force field against despair. ”

Elizabeth Alexander – Academy of American Poets Chancellor

The Tropics of New York

By Claude McKay

Bananas ripe and green, and ginger root
. .Cocoa in pods and alligator pears,
And tangerines and mangoes and grape fruit,
. .Fit for the highest prize at parish fairs,

Sat in the window, bringing memories
. .of fruit-trees laden by low-singing rills,
And dewy dawns, and mystical skies
. .In benediction over nun-like hills.

My eyes grow dim, and I could no more gaze;
. .A wave of longing through my body swept,
And, hungry for the old, familiar ways
. .I turned aside and bowed my head and wept.


Claude McKay’s poetry is filled with lyric wishfulness, both joyous and homesick, poems filled with the radiance of memory and place, borne of an inner song.   It is the quality that Keats described when he said, “Poetry should be great and unobtrusive, a thing which enters into the soul, and does not startle or amaze with itself but with its subject.”

McKay was a poet before he left his beloved homeland of Jamaica to study agriculture, assuming he would return to share his new found knowledge. He attended the University of Kansas, where the love of literature overtook his interest in farming. McKay eventually moved to Harlem, where he would work menial jobs that paid enough to survive and would continue to write for the rest of his life.

McKay is the kind of poet who makes the difficult look easy.  He writes with a quality that makes words sing; songs of emotions and ideas. McKay confronted racism with his writing and more importantly confronted life.  McKay’s best poetry is like water for the thirsty, in protest or in reverence, his words are simply eloquent.

To read more about Claude McKay, in his own words, click on the link below for a reprint of an article he wrote in 1918 for Pearson’s Magazine.

http://harlemshadows.org/supp_mckay_claude-mackay-describes.html


Claude McKay and Jamaican Tourism-image-2

I Shall Return

by Claude McKay

I shall return again; I shall return
To laugh and love and watch with wonder-eyes
At golden noon the forest fires burn,
Wafting their blue-black smoke to sapphire skies.
I shall return to loiter by the streams
That bathe the brown blades of the bending grasses,
And realize once more my thousand dreams
Of waters rushing down the mountain passes.
I shall return to hear the fiddle and fife
Of village dances, dear delicious tunes
That stir the hidden depths of native life,
Stray melodies of dim remembered runes.
I shall return, I shall return again,
To ease my mind of long, long years of pain.

What Only The Poets Know

 

AR-307169935
Claude McKay

If a man is not faithful to his own individuality, then he can not by loyal to anything.

Claude McKay.

Poetry

By Claude McKay (1889 – 1948)

Sometimes I tremble like a storm-swept flower,
And seek to hide my tortured soul from thee.
Bowing my head in deep humility
Before the silent thunder of thy power.
Sometimes I flee before thy blazing light,
As from the specter of pursuing death;
Intimidated lest thy mighty breath,
Windways, will sweep me into utter night.
For oh, I fear they will be swallowed up–
The loves which are to me of vital worth,
My passion and my pleasure in the earth–
And lost forever in thy magic cup!
I fear, I fear my truly human heart
Will perish on the altar-stone of art!


 

Check out this excerpt of an audio recording of a James Baldwin speech.  In it he says; “the artist’s struggle for integrity is a metaphor for the struggle of all human beings to become human beings.”

What kind of artist are you?  What kind of artist do you want want to be?  Interesting questions to contemplate.

 

A House in Taos

by Langston Hughes (1902 – 1967)

Rain

Thunder of the Rain God:
.        .And we three
.        .Smitten by beauty.

Thunder of the Rain God:
.      .And we three
.      .Weary, weary.

Thunder of the Rain God:
.        .And you, she, and I
.        .Waiting for nothingness.

Do you understand the stillness
.        .Of this house
.       ..In Taos
Under the thunder of the Rain God?

Sun

That there should be a barren garden
About this house in Taos
Is not so strange,
But that there should be three barren hearts
In this one house in Taos—
Who carries ugly things to show the sun?

Moon

Did you ask for the beaten brass of the moon?
We can buy lovely things with money,
You,she,and I,
Yet you seek,
As though you could keep,
This unbought loveliness of moon.

Wind

Touch our bodies, wind.
Our bodies are separate, individual things.
Touch our bodies, wind,
But blow quickly
Through the red, white, yellow skins
Of our bodies
To the terrible snarl,
Not mine,
Not yours,
Not hers,
But all one snarl of souls.
Blow quickly, wind,
Before we run back
Into the windlessness—
With our bodies—
Into the windlessness
Of our house in Taos.