Scent of needles & sap, the green of early winter.
pond ripples hurried & flattened by the fast cold
wind harsh enough to scatter the mallards
from water’s rough-textured surface. They leap
& flap & huddle on muddy grass, clustered, quacking.
Midday the clouds morph from one grey-white
shape to another, shadows strong, drawn from tall
pines onto the unpaved road. What hours lie ahead
we never know. No Terce or Compline ring here,
no call to prayer but antiphon train horn
& the disturbed ducks.
If I do not bow my head or bend my knee nonetheless
I praise. I praise you in and of this moment
whatever it is you are.
The region in which I live has been experiencing a lengthy spate of below-freezing weather, many a chilly day. When I do not feel like concentrating too much, I browse seed catalogues. But I am also reading poetry.
Today, I’ve begun reading a 2011 collection of poems by Rachel Hadas, The Golden Road, poems that are dense and beautiful and often elegiac in tone. I took a workshop with Hadas quite a few years ago and had enjoyed her work since long before the class; it was a pleasure to have her as a reader/instructor. And it is, so far, an excellent book. I’ve been keeping her poem “The Study” in my mind for hours now.
Good news, though–I have commenced the year with new poems of my own. I have three drafts as of January 7, which is a good start.
But for today–yet another chilly day–I’m posting this little verse by William Carlos Williams.
All the complicated details
of the attiring and
the disattiring are completed!
A liquid moon
moves gently among
the long branches.
Thus having prepared their buds
against a sure winter
the wise trees
stand sleeping in the cold.
–William Carlos Williams
I have lived and driven vehicles in regions that receive a great deal of snow, but it has been awhile–and I am not as spry as I once was–and I don’t even own a pair of cross-country skis anymore (a favorite winter activity). Being responsible for keeping a house and property and cars and pets maintained while the ice comes down and the snow piles up and the heat stops working and the power goes off has also somewhat dampened my enthusiasm for snowy winters. Plowing and shoveling are no substitute for XC skiing, and harder on the back. Worries about possible frozen pipes or whether the oil truck can get down the driveway (which resembles a bobsled run) shove more leisurely, more inspired thinking out of mind.
Nonetheless, I cannot ignore the beauty of fields and trees in snow or branches rimmed with ice or–as tonight–the cold, bright moon above the cold, white earth. I remind myself that snow is the best mulch. I think of the crocus and narcissus bulbs snug and dormant below the deep drifts. The house we built does its job of upholding us and protecting us. The house, wearing its white hat…
A poem from 2007, an experiment in sapphics, that seems appropriate.
Negotiating the Storm
Dawn. I curl away from the ice storm toward you,
your breath cools my face and my hair, the warm room;
Love, we’ve had too few of these moments lately—
other storms plague us.
Ice assaults the windows with droves of needles,
gusts shove over pines and flatten the birches.
I am glad for the weather’s impersonal aspect:
nothing to blame there.
Sleep. The sleet does not suffer indecision.
You don’t have to touch me, just breathing is plenty.
Walls and roof are stolidly doing their jobs,
power is on yet.
Let’s recuse ourselves from the task of judging
guilt or merits the past twelve moths have garnered,
forge a drowsy peace between us and also the
guileless brute outside.
© 2007 Ann E. Michael