If Winter Comes
'In the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer.' Albert Camus
April is the cruellest month, the poet says.
Green shoots and blossoms make
a mockery of winter's torpid isolation -
the sky's sheen like old ceramic
crazed with sapless boughs -
the ponds stagnant with rotting vegetation
and hedgerows once decked with flowers
and spangled fruit become
naked tangled thorns,
defensive as razor-wire.
Summer's dream is banished
by the first frost, sharp as ammonia,
its sense, its scent, its sentience
suppressed in resting earth.
We close our doors and light our fires,
don weatherproofs and scarves and rugged footwear
against gale and snow and pelting rain.
Hibernation seeps into the marrow,
blunting the senses to loss of balm
and cordial breezes, chromatic tones that
electrify the filaments of nerve and fibre
and promise Paradise.
Benumbed, our grief is tamed. We shut out
the nocturne of the winter solstice and
devise our own illumination, scorning
the antipodean canicule.
We make merry with old songs,
embellishing the murk with gold and glitter,
and heart-reviving greens and reds
reminiscent of crataegus, said to heal
that restive organ of its strains and pains.
What we need is a Death to conquer death,
a Life whose Grace and Incorruptibility
can harness all the vital forces of Creation
to taste the Lethe and live to bridge its banks
What majesty on earth can that accomplish?
What man-at-arms? What president? What ruler?
Brute myth where human and divine converge!
But hush! A rumour whispers through the darkness
and there are angels carolling a new theme
when the wavelength is attuned.
A blinding star fixes the conjunction
of heaven and earth and turns
Time back to front.
No clockwork mechanism now.
A baby in a makeshift cradle
(or is it an unconstraining grave?)
heralds a renascence that
stirs the ailing cosmos,
pulls sap towards the ether
and consigns the cruellest month
to history's past imperfect.