Saturday, April 7, 2018

In Perpetual Spring (April 10, 2020)


By  Amy Lowell   


False blue, 



Color of lilac, 

Your great puffs of flowers 

Are everywhere in this my New England.   

Among your heart-shaped leaves 

Orange orioles hop like music-box birds and sing   

Their little weak soft songs; 

In the crooks of your branches 

The bright eyes of song sparrows sitting on spotted eggs   

Peer restlessly through the light and shadow   

Of all Springs. 

Lilacs in dooryards 

Holding quiet conversations with an early moon;   

Lilacs watching a deserted house 

Settling sideways into the grass of an old road; 

Lilacs, wind-beaten, staggering under a lopsided shock of bloom 

Above a cellar dug into a hill. 

You are everywhere. 

You were everywhere. 

You tapped the window when the preacher preached his sermon, 

And ran along the road beside the boy going to school. 

You stood by the pasture-bars to give the cows good milking,  

You persuaded the housewife that her dishpan was of silver.  

And her husband an image of pure gold.   

You flaunted the fragrance of your blossoms   

Through the wide doors of Custom Houses— 

You, and sandal-wood, and tea, 

Charging the noses of quill-driving clerks   

When a ship was in from China. 

You called to them: “Goose-quill men, goose-quill men,   

May is a month for flitting.” 

Until they writhed on their high stools 

And wrote poetry on their letter-sheets behind the propped-up ledgers. 

Paradoxical New England clerks, 

Writing inventories in ledgers, reading the “Song of Solomon” at night, 

So many verses before bed-time, 

Because it was the Bible. 

The dead fed you 

Amid the slant stones of graveyards. 

Pale ghosts who planted you 

Came in the nighttime 

And let their thin hair blow through your clustered stems.   

You are of the green sea, 

And of the stone hills which reach a long distance. 

You are of elm-shaded streets with little shops where they sell kites and marbles, 

You are of great parks where every one walks and nobody is at home. 

You cover the blind sides of greenhouses 

And lean over the top to say a hurry-word through the glass   

To your friends, the grapes, inside. 


False blue, 



Color of lilac, 

You have forgotten your Eastern origin,   

The veiled women with eyes like panthers, 

The swollen, aggressive turbans of jeweled pashas. 

Now you are a very decent flower,   

A reticent flower, 

A curiously clear-cut, candid flower,   

Standing beside clean doorways, 

Friendly to a house-cat and a pair of spectacles,   

Making poetry out of a bit of moonlight   

And a hundred or two sharp blossoms. 

Maine knows you, 

Has for years and years; 

New Hampshire knows you, 

And Massachusetts 

And Vermont. 

Cape Cod starts you along the beaches to Rhode Island;   

Connecticut takes you from a river to the sea.   

You are brighter than apples, 

Sweeter than tulips, 

You are the great flood of our souls 

Bursting above the leaf-shapes of our hearts,   

You are the smell of all Summers, 

The love of wives and children, 

The recollection of gardens of little children,   

You are State Houses and Charters 

And the familiar treading of the foot to and fro on a road it knows. 

May is lilac here in New England, 

May is a thrush singing “Sun up!” on a tip-top ash tree,   

May is white clouds behind pine-trees   

Puffed out and marching upon a blue sky.   

May is a green as no other, 

May is much sun through small leaves,   

May is soft earth, 

And apple-blossoms, 

And windows open to a South Wind.   

May is full light wind of lilac 

From Canada to Narragansett Bay. 


False blue, 



Color of lilac. 

Heart-leaves of lilac all over New England,   

Roots of lilac under all the soil of New England,   

Lilac in me because I am New England, 

Because my roots are in it, 

Because my leaves are of it, 

Because my flowers are for it,   

Because it is my country 

And I speak to it of itself 

And sing of it with my own voice   

Since certainly it is mine.
REFLECTIVE MUSIC: Lilacs by Sergei Rachmaninov


By  Billy Collins   

If ever there were a spring day so perfect, 

so uplifted by a warm intermittent breeze 

that it made you want to throw 

open all the windows in the house 

and unlatch the door to the canary's cage, 

indeed, rip the little door from its jamb, 

a day when the cool brick paths 

and the garden bursting with peonies 

seemed so etched in sunlight

that you felt like taking 

a hammer to the glass paperweight 

on the living room end table, 

releasing the inhabitants 

from their snow-covered cottage 

so they could walk out, 

holding hands and squinting 

into this larger dome of blue and white, 

well, today is just that kind of day.

After the Winter

By  Claude McKay   

Some day, when trees have shed their leaves

     And against the morning’s white

The shivering birds beneath the eaves

     Have sheltered for the night,

We’ll turn our faces southward, love,

     Toward the summer isle

Where bamboos spire the shafted grove

     And wide-mouthed orchids smile.

And we will seek the quiet hill

     Where towers the cotton tree,

And leaps the laughing crystal rill,

     And works the droning bee.

And we will build a cottage there

     Beside an open glade,

With black-ribbed blue-bells blowing near,

     And ferns that never fade.

Easter in Pittsburgh

By  James Laughlin   

Even on Easter Sunday   

when the church was a 

jungle of lilies and   

ferns fat Uncle Paul 

who loved his liquor   

so would pound away 

with both fists on the   

stone pulpit shouting 

sin sin sin and the   

fiery fires of hell 

and I cried all after- 

noon the first time I 

heard what they did to   

Jesus it was something 

the children shouldn’t   

know about till they 

were older but the new   

maid told me and both 

of us cried a lot and so   

mother got another one 

right away & she sent   

away Miss Richardson 

who came all the way   

from England because 

she kept telling how   

her fiancé Mr. Bowles- 

Lyon died suddenly of   

a heart attack he just 

said one day at lunch   

I’m afraid I’m not well 

and the next thing they   

knew he was sliding un- 

der the table. Easter   

was nice the eggs were 

silly but the big lilies   

were wonderful & when 

Uncle Paul got so fat   

from drinking that he 

couldn’t squeeze into   

the pulpit anymore & 

had to preach from the   

floor there was an el- 

ders’ meeting and they   

said they would have 

the pulpit rebuilt but   

Uncle Paul said no it 

was the Lord’s manifest   

will and he would pass 

his remaining years in   

sacred studies I liked 

Thanksgiving better be- 

cause that was the day 

father took us down to   

the mills but Easter I 

liked next best and the   

rabbits died because we 

fed them beet tops and   

the lamb pulled up the 

grass by the roots and   

was sold to Mr. Page the 

butcher I asked Uncle   

Robert what were sacred 

studies he said he was   

not really sure but he 

guessed they came in a   

bottle and mother sent 

me away from the table   

when I wouldn’t eat my 

lamb chops that was   

ridiculous she said it 

wasn’t the lamb of God   

it was just Caesar An- 

dromache Nibbles but I   

couldn’t I just couldn’t 

& the year of the strike   

we didn’t go to Church 

at all on Easter because   

they said it wasn’t safe 

down town so instead we   

had prayers in the library

and then right in the mid-

dle the telephone rang it 

was Mr. Shupstead at the   

mill they had had to use 

tear gas father made a   

special prayer right a- 

way for God’s protection   

& mercy and then he sent 

us out to the farm with   

mother we stayed a week 

and missed school but it   

rained a lot and I broke 

the bathroom mirror and   

had to learn a long psalm.

In Perpetual Spring

By  Amy Gerstler   

Gardens are also good places 

to sulk. You pass beds of 

spiky voodoo lilies   

and trip over the roots   

of a sweet gum tree,   

in search of medieval   

plants whose leaves,   

when they drop off   

turn into birds 

if they fall on land, 

and colored carp if they   

plop into water. 

Suddenly the archetypal   

human desire for peace   

with every other species   

wells up in you. The lion   

and the lamb cuddling up. 

The snake and the snail, kissing. 

Even the prick of the thistle,   

queen of the weeds, revives   

your secret belief 

in perpetual spring, 

your faith that for every hurt   

there is a leaf to cure it.

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