Almost forty, I fear, is late for spring.
The path may flirt with periwinkle praise
and court a fair season’s flowering ways,
but what consolation do gardens bring?
Done are days when I grew firm and fast
and each new surging of burgeoning proved
my bounty of blossoming well behooved.
But the yield was barren, and promise passed.
Hack away these gnarled limbs, this blighted bole.
Wild, overgrown, corrupted—who would prune
such wretched wood as might be better hewn
or take the part of parts grown less than whole?
That a dead tree once bore fruit is true
but only, Vine of Life, when hung with you.
In days when hollow trunks begin to hum
with sweet industry, the hording of hives,
I think of the billions of buzzing lives
and to what stinging ends our sins may come.
But that’s your scope, O Keeper; mine is me.
An apiary’s not my heart at all.
Where bees would suck nectar, I gather gall,
though meadows of clover your graces be.
After the summer of your forbearance,
when my dry comb, forgotten, holds no store
and you, as written, come to knock my door
and find me naked as our first parents,
then will my merits be like so much air,
my hive all empty, save that you be there.
Strip my fluttering vanities. Go!
Take, by your leave, my leave’s abandonment.
Let heaven’s boons be back to heaven sent
or scattered like trash on the ground below.
Your waxing drew my essence from its roots.
Your zenith pledged an inner synthesis,
and I, all credulous, accepted this—
to tender a tender of tender shoots.
Then glory dimmed. Your favor seemed withdrawn.
And so the warm fusion of greener days
had failed, appalled by the loss of your gaze.
Yet, like a blush, my color comes on,
redeemed in red as in a passion’s fire,
being kindled, O Sun, by your desire.
In heaps of white, the blasting sleet appalls,
poured out like salt over some vanquished land
by foes the fallen heroes could not withstand
while defeated eyes watch from wasted walls.
Frozen in winter’s heart like such a loss,
my parapets lined with sullen faces,
my priests all fled from their holy places,
and my old coinage counted so much dross,
I see heralds flourishing fronds of palms.
The procession comes. I wait for pride to pass
and find instead a servant on an ass.
Under his siege of peace, the crowd becalms,
for the strange king issues no dread commands
but to come and embrace his wounded hands.
R.S. Mitchell is a writer and editor based in Crozet, Virginia, where he lives with his wife and three daughters.