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THE MONTHS

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January

Contorted by wind,
mere armatures for ice or snow,
the trees resolve
to endure for now,

they will leaf out in April.
And I must be as patient
as the trees—
a winter resolution

I break all over again,
as the cold presses
its sharp blade
against my throat.


February

After endless
hibernation
on the windowsill,
the orchid blooms—

embroidered purple stitches
up and down
a slender stem.
Outside, snow

melts midair
to rain.
Abbreviated month.
Every kind of weather.


March

When the Earl King came
to steal away the child
in Goethe’s poem, the father said
don’t be afraid,

it’s just the wind. . .
As if it weren’t the wind
that blows away the tender
fragments of this world—

leftover leaves in the corners
of the garden, a Lenten Rose
that thought it safe
to bloom so early.


April

In the pastel blur
of the garden,
the cherry
and redbud

shake rain
from their delicate
shoulders, as petals
of pink

dogwood
wash down the ditches
in dreamlike
rivers of color.


May

May apple, daffodil,
hyacinth, lily,
and by the front
porch steps

every billowing
shade of purple
and lavender lilac,
my mother’s favorite flower,

sweet breath drifting through
the open windows:
perfume of memory—conduit
of spring.


June

The June bug
on the screen door
whirs like a small,
ugly machine,

and a chorus of frogs
and crickets drones like Musak
at all the windows.
What we don’t quite see

comforts us.
Blink of lightning, grumble
of thunder—just the heat
clearing its throat.


July

Tonight the fireflies
light their brief
candles
in all the trees

of summer—
color of moonflakes,
color of fluorescent
lace

where the ocean drags
its torn hem
over the dark
sand.


August

Barefoot
and sun-dazed,
I bite into this ripe peach
of a month,

gathering children
into my arms
in all their sandy
glory,

heaping
my table each night
with nothing
but corn and tomatoes.


September

Their summer romance
over, the lovers
still cling
to each other

the way the green
leaves cling
to their trees
in the strange heat

of September, as if
this time
there will be
no autumn.


October

How suddenly
the woods
have turned
again. I feel

like Daphne, standing
with my arms
outstretched
to the season,

overtaken
by color, crowned
with the hammered gold
of leaves.


November

These anonymous
leaves, their wet
bodies pressed
against the window

or falling past—
I count them
in my sleep,
absolving gravity,

absolving even death
who knows as I do
the imperatives
of the season.


December

The white dove of winter
sheds its first
fine feathers;
they melt

as they touch
the warm ground
like notes
of a once familiar

music; the earth
shivers and
turns towards
the solstice.



Used with permission of the author.
Source: Poetry (Poetry Foundation, 1999)

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This poem originally appeared in the October 1999 issue of Poetry magazine

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THE MONTHS

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