April Strewing Flowers

wwunotpink

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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, “Spring”

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skagitfields32516

I know that we cannot depend on the return of Spring to heal us~
it is balm not cure,
our brains losing synapses day by day.

I know that none of Spring’s beauty can bloom without a dying before~
it is a shroud thrown over to cover our decay.

I know I cannot be transformed simply by the warmth of the sun~
it is not enough for my skin to sweat when my heart lies still and cold.

I know I must dig deeper into holy ground for the truth~
it does not lie in perfumed blossoms and sweet blue skies.

I know what I know~
life in itself is nothing unless
death is overcome yet again
and our hearts, once broken,
healed again and again,
begin to pulse red once more.

skagitfields332516

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tulipred

For So It Has Been

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I am not resigned to the shutting away of loving hearts in the hard ground.
So it is, and so it will be, for so it has been, time out of mind:
Into the darkness they go, the wise and the lovely.  Crowned
With lilies and with laurel they go; but I am not resigned.
Lovers and thinkers, into the earth with you.
Be one with the dull, the indiscriminate dust.
A fragment of what you felt, of what you knew,
A formula, a phrase remains,—but the best is lost.
The answers quick and keen, the honest look, the laughter, the love,—
They are gone.  They are gone to feed the roses.  Elegant and curled
Is the blossom.  Fragrant is the blossom.  I know.  But I do not approve.
More precious was the light in your eyes than all the roses in the world.
Down, down, down into the darkness of the grave
Gently they go, the beautiful, the tender, the kind;
Quietly they go, the intelligent, the witty, the brave.
I know.  But I do not approve.  And I am not resigned.
~Edna St. Vincent Millay “Dirge Without Music”
Each Memorial Day weekend without fail,
we gather with family, have lunch, reminisce,
and trek to the cemetery high above Puget Sound
to catch up with our relatives who lie there still,
some we knew and loved and miss,
others not so much, unknown to us
except on genealogy charts,
their names and dates and these stones
all that is left of them.
Yet we know each, as we know ourselves and others,
was tender and kind, though flawed and broken,
was beautiful and strong, though wrinkled and frail,
was hopeful and faithful, though too soon in the ground.

We know this about them
as we know it about ourselves:
someday we too will feed roses,
the light in our eyes
become elegant swirls with fragrant breath of heaven.
No one asks if we approve of this, nor should they;
So it is, so it will be, for so it has been.

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 weepingrose
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Pushed and Pelted

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For two days, wind and rain storms have noisily centered my attention;  they pummel, push and pelt to remind me I am not in control and never have been.
When I look out the window at tall trees bowing and proud blossoms breaking to the ground, I too am bent and broken.
If there was a time to kneel down, this is it.

The rain to the wind said,
‘You push and I’ll pelt.’
They so smote the garden bed
That the flowers actually knelt,
And lay lodged–though not dead.
I know how the flowers felt.
~Robert Frost “Lodged”

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I yearn for flowers that bend with the wind and rain.
~Tso Ssu

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The wind shows us how close to the edge we are.
~Joan Didion

rainyroseandslug

The heavy rain beat down the tender branches of vine and jessamine,
and trampled on them in its fury;
and when the lightning gleamed,
it showed the tearful leaves shivering and cowering together at the window,
and tapping at it urgently,
as if beseeching to be sheltered from the dismal night.
~Charles Dickens, Martin Chuzzlewit

wwurain3No one but Night, with tears on her dark face,
Watches beside me in this windy place.
~Edna St. Vincent Millay

I Know What I Know

pearapril

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…
–  Edna St. Vincent Millay, from “Spring”

I know that we cannot depend on the return of Spring to heal us~
it is balm not cure.

I know that none of its beauty can bloom without it dying before~
it is a shroud thrown over to cover our decay.

I know I cannot be transformed by the warmth of the sun~
it is not enough for my skin to sweat when my heart lies still and cold.

I know I must dig deeper in holy ground for the truth~
it does not lie in perfumed blossoms and sweet blue skies.

I know what I know~
life in itself is nothing unless
death is overcome yet again
and our hearts, once broken,
begin to pulse red once more.

croci13

sistersapril

A Little Tepid Pool

photo by Josh Scholten
photo by Josh Scholten
I know what my heart is like
      Since your love died:
It is like a hollow ledge
Holding a little pool
      Left there by the tide,
      A little tepid pool,
Drying inward from the edge.
~Edna St. Vincent Millay “Ebb”
My mother was my age when my father left her for a younger woman.  For weeks my mother withered, crying until there were no more tears left, drying inward from her edges.
It took ten years, but he came back like an overdue high tide.   She was sure her love had died but the tepid pool refilled, the water cool to the touch, yet overflowing.

Quiet Eyes

photo by Josh Scholten

I will be the gladdest thing
     Under the sun!
I will touch a hundred flowers
     And not pick one.

photo by Josh Scholten

I will look at cliffs and clouds
     With quiet eyes,
Watch the wind bow down the grass,
     And the grass rise.

photo by Josh Scholten

And when lights begin to show
     Up from the town,
I will mark which must be mine,
     And then start down!

-Afternoon on a Hill by Edna St. Vincent Millay (1892-1950)

photo by Josh Scholten
Thanks to Mr. Ryan Smit and the Concert Choir who introduced an appreciative audience to this poem set to music by Eric Barnum during last night’s Lynden Christian High School music concert