According to T.S. Eliot, April is the cruelest month. With all this weird weather making it hard for me to get outside and work in my garden, I am tempted to agree with the esteemed poet.
April is also National Poetry Month, however, so that makes the month pretty special in my book. Maybe as long as I am stuck indoors anyway, I should look to poets to help me make it though this forced exile. Perhaps poetry can help me weather this weather.
The April rains have been especially intense this year.
Anne Sexton provides us with a dark, violent image of rain in “The Fury of Rainstorms” as she writes, “The rain drums down like red ants/each bouncing off my window/…and they cry out as they hit.” While Longfellow’s rain isn’t quite as brutal, he shows it to be a depressing affair: “The day is cold and dark and dreary/It rains and the wind is never weary.”
For a more humorous and upbeat take on rain, I turn to Shel Silverstein: “I open my eyes/And looked up at the rain/And it dripped in my head/And flowed into my brain/And all that I hear as I lie in my bed/Is the slishity-slosh of the rain in my head.”
We have also had some very windy days this season. Many poets write about wind as an almost mysterious natural force that is extremely powerful and yet invisible. Christina Rossetti writes: “Who has seen the wind?/Neither you nor I/But when the trees bow down their heads/The wind is passing by.” Robert Louis Stevenson says the same thing in this way: “I saw the different things you did/But always you yourself you hid/I felt you push I heard you call/I could not see yourself at all.”
Another appropriate weather poem for this early spring season would be “Fog” by Carl Sandberg. You probably heard it in school: “The fog comes on little cat feet/It sits looking/over harbor and city/on silent haunches/and then moves on.” One of the things I like about the poem is how it reminds me of the stillness, the muffled sound that happens during a fog.
Like a guest that lingers too long and won’t put on his coat and walk out the door, winter seems to be hanging around way past its welcome. Those specifically winter characters Snow, Ice and Sleet are still elbowing their way into April. Alan Shapiro wrote a poem called “Sleet” which describes his father driving their old Buick in bad weather: “Our father held the wheel with just two fingers/even though the car skidded and fishtailed/and the chains clanged raggedly over ice and asphalt.”
As I consider our recent weather, Katherine Mansfield captures in two short, direct lines my feelings and maybe yours, too: “Snow and sleet and sleet and snow/Will the winter never go?”
I know that this crazy April weather can’t last forever (Can it?) and that the time will come when warmer temperatures and calmer weather will prevail. Emily Dickinson said hope is a thing with feathers and I see evidence of that as I catch a glimpse of bluebirds just back home or a yellow daffodil pushing through slowly returning green. Perhaps I should end with Ms. Dickinson’s thoughts of spring:
“A little madness in the spring/Is wholesome even for the king/But God be with the clown/Who ponders this tremendous scene/—This whole Experiment of Green—/As if it were his own!”
Norman Knight, a retired Clark-Pleasant Middle School teacher, writes this weekly column for the Daily Journal. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.