This is my 70th post on this blog! That means, not counting the first accidental poeming and the New Year’s Resolution post, I have written 68 poems this year to date. I’m going to let myself be proud of that.
Today I wanted to write a poem about spring. In line with my way of thinking about small revolutions lately, I’ve been thinking that spring is its own yearly uprising. We think all is frozen, but the greening begins again, resolutely, and wins every time.
But, as we know, I have a hard time writing about nature. It’s a tough and wondrous subject. Spring has always been a time for poets, but many of them tread on the same ground, it’s all resurrection, new life, birth, sex, awakening, enlightenment…not that that’s a bad thing. It’s just, that, I’d like to imagine that there are other ways to think it. That said, the inspiration for today’s poem leads me to those very ideas. So, if I have to write a cliche’d spring poem, I will.
Today a friend posted the opening passage from Tolstoy’s “Resurrection”, and I thought it was stunning:
“Though men in their hundreds of thousands had tried their hardest to disfigure that little corner of the earth where they had crowded themselves together, paving the ground with stones so that nothing could grow, weeding out every blade of vegetation, filling the air with the fumes of coal and gas, cutting down trees and driving away every beast and every bird — spring, however, was still spring, even in the town.
The sun shone warm, the grass, wherever it had not been scraped away, revived and showed green not only on the narrow strips of lawn on the boulevards but between the paving-stones as well, and the birches, the poplars and the wild cherry-trees were unfolding their sticky, fragrant leaves, and the swelling buds were bursting on the lime trees; the jackdaws, the sparrows and the pigeons were cheerfully getting their nests ready for the spring, and the flies, warmed by the sunshine, buzzed gaily along the walls. All were happy — plants, birds, insects and children.
But grown-up people — adult men and women — never left off cheating and tormenting themselves and one another. It was not this spring morning which they considered sacred and important, not the beauty of God’s world, given to all creatures to enjoy — a beauty which inclines the heart to peace, to harmony and to love. No, what they considered sacred and important were their own devices for wielding power over each other.”
Another translation has that last like this :
“It was not this spring morning men thought sacred and worthy of consideration, not the beauty of God’s world, given for a joy to all creatures, this beauty which inclines the heart to peace, to harmony, and to love, but only their own devices for enslaving one another.”
How spring can happen unnoticed, because of our own egos, is heartbreaking. And in showing spring in contrast to great greed, Tolstoy gets away with phrases like “sticky, fragrant leaves, and the swelling buds. Not just gets away with, but wins.
Fog is another thing that is hard to write about. Poets always want to describe it as catlike. I get that, the curling, the lethargy, but it doesn’t feel catlike to me. Today I felt the first warm breeze of spring, and it was crazy foggy on my way too and from work, so I’m going to attempt a poem that is both.
How do we know we are alive, in the fog, everything is muted. How do we know what is left that breathes?
This soup is not animal, not feline, not living, but the exact opposite, the inversion of mortality, and the swapping of sky and earth. Is the light even trying to reach us?
There’s death in this uncertainty, or certainly stasis, and this white void is not a pet, but appears like the swirling of blood in water.
Winter’s extended exhale has to end, beats pounding in the core, the pressure of the air demanding a way in, these chokehold vapors must release.
Spring is announced not by seeing, all is still colorless, but by listening. The drip, drop, the roar of the rising.
One brief trill calls up the waters, slaps, and the forest breathes. The first winds of spring are the shuttering gasp before the bloom,
the first drawn breath of new creatures.