Monday, June 20, 2016
Nicholas Reid reflects in essay form on general matters and ideas related to literature, history, popular culture and the arts, or just life in general. You are free to agree or disagree with him.
POEMS FOR SEASONS
For no urgent reason, I present to you as this week’s “Something Thoughtful” two poems that appear in my forthcoming collection Mirror World (Steele Roberts, 2016). Winter is now with us, and even though I write this after a blissfully sunny and clear Auckland day, I can feel the chill in the air. So I have decided to present you with two poems dealing with the seasons. “The Pear Tree” will (I hope) resonate with anyone who has admired the blossoms in spring, but has simultaneously sniffled through pollen-charged allergies. As for “Winter Trio”, I hope it (and King Lear) are self-explanatory.
THE PEAR TREE
The lesson never learnt, in seems and is,
taught each year when she stands
with witches’ claws against the winter skies
beside the supple, living evergreen,
declaring that she’s ready for the axe.
Then spring, uncalled-for, buds. Always
the unexpected putting-on of gear,
a bridal gown of petals, white
this week and papering the earth
before birds stab her fruit.
An easy lesson, then, in seems and is,
the seasoned allegory, life from death
in cycles of renewal. The dead wood
was hibernating only, waiting for
the vernal equinox and nudge of sun.
But seems and is lack seasons, come
in frost or warmth. She’s living for her kind.
Her springtime brideship has a price
in pollen-spray and spores. For the unkind
her living beauty carries plague.
A fevered, heavy head, wet nose
and sneezes from her blossom
freezing thought and stoking allergy.
She doesn’t die in winter, doesn’t give
her beauty freely; is a tree that answers back
Autumn went out; winter came in. The cat
hid from the night rain under the platform
outside our front door, its green wood dripping,
protesting loud at her rout from behind
warm armchair or under mysterious desk.
We lay in the dark, hearing her trundling
over the tiles, miaowing at the window
when we switched on a light in the small hours.
Her fur was wet, dawn eyes large when we let
her in. “Poor Tom’s a cold!” Our soul outside.
A small blackbird landed in the guttering,
and slipped and was trapped, its leg caught in rust,
fidgeting and crying beyond our grasp.
The cat reached the bird, bit its head and batted,
making its last flight dead-weight and gravity.
We scraped the maimed carcass from the concrete,
feather, bones and muck, a cat’s unwanted sport,
and made a shallow grave in sodden soil.
It rained and dripped. The cat sniffed flowers and weeds
as we worked, indifferent to little death.
Then the rats, or mice. Something scampering
behind the scrim at least in the darkness
when it was raining, sheltering like we,
an alien domestic beast, resented
in our dreams of unsavoury rodents.
The cat, the rat, the bird, a winter trio
driven by foul weather to our closed coat
of wood and tile. We are no benign king
of mercy-madness, wrapping a wet Fool,
but the fourth part of forced winter shelter.