Saturday, April 05, 2008

Harbinger of Spring.

Yes, today was the first time this year that the Bluebird of Happiness woke me up. At a quarter of four in the morning. Even the cats give me 'til about 6:30.

I Heard a Linnet Courting

I heard a linnet courting
His lady in the spring:
His mates were idly sporting,
Nor stayed to hear him sing
His song of love.—
I fear my speech distorting
His tender love.

The phrases of his pleading
Were full of young delight;
And she that gave him heeding
Interpreted aright
His gay, sweet notes,—
So sadly marred in the reading,—
His tender notes.

And when he ceased, the hearer
Awaited the refrain,
Till swiftly perching nearer
He sang his song again,
His pretty song:—
Would that my verse spake clearer
His tender song!

Ye happy, airy creatures!
That in the merry spring
Think not of what misfeatures
Or cares the year may bring;
But unto love
Resign your simple natures,
To tender love.

-Robert Seymour Bridges

(Full disclosure here: this was not what I was thinking at the time. Slingshots and clear paths were more what was coming to mind then.)

Friday, April 04, 2008

This little delight comes from Dr. Bob who uses it in his course to talk about social exclusion:

Warning - When I Am an Old Woman I Shall Wear Purple

When I am an old woman, I shall wear purple
with a red hat that doesn't go, and doesn't suit me.
And I shall spend my pension on brandy and summer gloves
and satin candles, and say we've no money for butter.
I shall sit down on the pavement when I am tired
and gobble up samples in shops and press alarm bells
and run my stick along the public railings
and make up for the sobriety of my youth.
I shall go out in my slippers in the rain
and pick the flowers in other people's gardens
and learn to spit.

You can wear terrible shirts and grow more fat
and eat three pounds of sausages at a go
or only bread and pickles for a week
and hoard pens and pencils and beer nuts and things in boxes.

But now we must have clothes that keep us dry
and pay our rent and not swear in the street
and set a good example for the children.
We must have friends to dinner and read the papers.
But maybe I ought to practice a little now?
So people who know me are not too shocked and surprised
When suddenly I am old, and start to wear purple.

-Jenny Joseph

***

(Didn't realize that she was a Birmingham native as well...thanks Dr. Bob!)

Thursday, April 03, 2008

One of my favorite people in the world turned 40 today. I'd like to give him the gift of looking forward in hope rather than being unhappy about the past. (Somehow, though, I think that that's something only he can give himself.)

Crossroads

The second half of my life will be black
to the white rind of the old and fading moon.
The second half of my life will be water
over the cracked floor of these desert years.
I will land on my feet this time,
knowing at least two languages and who
my friends are. I will dress for the
occasion, and my hair shall be
whatever color I please.
Everyone will go on celebrating the old
birthday, counting the years as usual,
but I will count myself new from this
inception, this imprint of my own desire.

The second half of my life will be swift,
past leaning fenceposts, a gravel shoulder,
asphalt tickets, the beckon of open road.
The second half of my life will be wide-eyed,
fingers shifting through fine sands,
arms loose at my sides, wandering feet.
There will be new dreams every night,
and the drapes will never be closed.
I will toss my string of keys into a deep
well and old letters into the grate.

The second half of my life will be ice
breaking up on the river, rain
soaking the fields, a hand
held out, a fire,
and smoke going
upward, always up.

-Joyce Sutphen

***

Happy Birthday, Pablo.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Tomatoes don't really bother me that much. Mine always grow, though I may end up with more pickled green ones than reds for salads by the end of the season. Where I've been finding disappointment lately has been with the so-called hardy "native" plants.

Three years back, I planted lupines and they never came up. My thyme and mint both disappeared last year. Then there was the year of the one, anemic zucchini. The biggest frustration to date, though, has to be the strawberries. A couple years back, I planted three runners which, to my delight, turned into about 50 plants. Given how productive the three little originals were, I'd figured that by the next season, there'd be enough berries to make at least a few pots of jam. No such luck, as, though I got lots of lush greenery, not a single flower appeared.

Maybe this year will be better.

Vespers

In your extended absence, you permit me
use of earth, anticipating
some return on investment. I must report
failure in my assignment, principally
regarding the tomato plants.
I think I should not be encouraged to grow
tomatoes. Or, if I am, you should withhold
the heavy rains, the cold nights that come
so often here, while other regions get
twelve weeks of summer. All this
belongs to you: on the other hand,
I planted the seeds, I watched the first shoots
like wings tearing the soil, and it was my heart
broken by the blight, the black spot so quickly
multiplying in the rows. I doubt
you have a heart, in our understanding of
that term. You who do not discriminate
between the dead and the living, who are, in consequence,
immune to foreshadowing, you may not know
how much terror we bear, the spotted leaf,
the red leaves of the maple falling
even in August, in early darkness: I am responsible
for these vines.

-Louise Gl├╝ck

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Spring

To what purpose, April, do you return again?
Beauty is not enough.
You can no longer quiet me with the redness
Of little leaves opening stickily.
I know what I know.
The sun is hot on my neck as I observe
The spikes of the crocus.
The smell of the earth is good.
It is apparent that there is no death.
But what does that signify?
Not only under ground are the brains of men
Eaten by maggots.
Life in itself
Is nothing,
An empty cup, a flight of uncarpeted stairs.
It is not enough that yearly, down this hill,
April
Comes like an idiot, babbling and strewing flowers.

-Edna St. Vincent Millay

***

I am happy for Spring and I still do view April as a long-held, much-needed exhalation. However, this year is feeling strange. I'm tired. So, so tired. Not only emotionally but physically.

Maybe it's loneliness. Maybe it's the depression I'm said to be suffering from. Maybe I'm just getting old and need to face up to that.

In any event, it IS the time for new growth. For coaxing peas, lettuce, radishes out of the semi-frozen earth. If I keep working hard enough at it, maybe I'll find sustenance in the sun and air just like my little garden vanguards.