Canadian Spring (1975)


There it is – the singing of frogs. I knew
I'd recognize at once the warm high chirping,
birdlike, drowsy and urgent. He told me I
should hear them so: on a still night with a touch
of frost tingling the air so that the stars
in a black sky are single, brilliant and lonely,
flashing undimmed down to the blacker horizon.
This frost, quivering with the singing of frogs,
is the breathless messenger of the sudden Spring.
I have seen the mayflowers, as he told me,
thrusting their spears through ash-grey winter leaves
to blossom delicately white in shady places;
and gummy chestnut buds bursting to release
the crumpled leaves that hang like little green bats
sleeping a long sleep in the sun. And soon
the appletrees will blossom through the valley
like pink-white cloud, half-flower, half-dream.

But O it is a hard beauty, incised
with steel in sunlit granite; a cruel beauty
without distance or profundity.
And so he said it would be. So it is.

If I call to him now to listen to the frogs
he'll come and take me tenderly in his arms;
and I won't dare to open my eyes for fear
I'll see his face against the sky and fancy
the river behind me, shivering with stars,
and the house pale behind him; and myself
dreaming of candlelight behind the darkened
windows, and the colour of fire on books
and a round table polished to limpid stillness.


There was an April night
when he came to me with his arms
tumbled full of flowers:
his hair was bleached by the sun
and his eyes had the sea in them.

That March the crocuses
had come with a new meaning;
and the Spring came timidly,
the tiny leaves mistily
waiting for the sun.

But the time was slow and heavy
after the daffodils,
after he'd gone away.

Then he came home, and the summer
was a bright tapestry
of rich grass, and roses
smothering a thatched cottage:
and Cornish gorse in flame
and Somerset heather in flower
and crooked peaceful hedges
and the passionate song of larks
and flashes of sun-hot sky
wherein the spun cirrus
shaped with slow growth
into wild feathers.

Do I remember well
that words came more gently then;
that there wasn't this glint of ice
in birdsong and voices?

That was another life
a whole world different.
That was another earth
a cold wide ocean distant.


O take me in your arms
and fashion some stillness
out of my heart's crying
for remembered daffodils.