For Easter, I offer you two poems of spring. The first, by Mt Washington Poet Laureate Michael Henson, exquisitely captures the exquisite progress of new life asserting itself once again. The second is a moving prose poem set in an Alaskan spring by Mike’s friend and mine, Joseph Enzweiler. We lost Joe too soon, on this day in 2011.
A red haze among the maples.
A great clutter of branches thrown down by a storm.
A row of daffodils that raise their baffled heads
out of the cold beds of the garden.
stretched back by the black fingers of the trees at the horizon,
stretched back by the rooftops at the head of the alley,
ekes out the lingering days.
The winter rains become the spring rains,
cold and persistent.
The rivers rise to their banks;
they darken with silt.
They boil coldly
in their drive to the Gulf,
bearing downstream anything loose in their path.
Then, a day that ignites
green fires at the tips of the sycamores.
A day when the earth shimmers
with a dim mammalian pulse.
After the million deaths of winter,
in tens and twelves,
here, and here,
and in the hedges.
Everything grows more numerous.
New hungers arise,
some small as the belly of a vole,
some nearly small as thought.
Others large as a field of wheat.
Still others, larger than we dare name.
Everywhere, the hungers assert themselves.
They stretch among the root hairs in the compost.
They call from the nests tucked in the branches of the cedars.
They quiver on the dark floor of every pond.
They weep themselves known in the houses of the poor.
(published in The Dead Singing, Mongrel Empire Press, 2016)
The trees are hinged and creak in the starlight. A few leaves tick past, and wind makes snow devils at the corners of my house.
It takes six days to dig her grave. I make three fires a day in that square of frozen ground, get it roaring with an armload of wood, then shovel out the coals and thawed wet silt, gaining a few inches, then beginning again. I carry earth by bucketfuls inside the house, to keep it workable, pour them out on an old blue tarp in the middle of the floor.
”All right, let’s do this,” I tell my friend, and we carry the box out to the wall. It is Easter night, the time of year boreal owls begin to call. I light a kerosene lamp, slip a rope through the I-bolts in the lid to lower her softly as I could, as if to say “You’ll be down there just a little way, in your silver-fastened boat, and I’ll be right here.”
The stars are sharp as voices tonight, and lamp light mutters on the snow. I slip the rope out and coil it on one arm, then haul the buckets of earth back out, two by two. I finish after midnight, sweating, take off my shirt by the wood stove. We stand there a long time, in silence, and have a glass of wine.
Joseph Enzweiler (from A Winter on Earth from Iris Press)
Join us for the Cincinnati Poetry Month Daily Project Reading on Wednesday, April 26, 7 pm at People’s Liberty, 1805 Elm Street, Over the Rhine