While T.S. Eliot called April “the cruellest month” in the opening lines of “The Wasteland,” I find much to celebrate in this National Poetry Month 2023, starting with the historic naming of Ada Limón to a second, two-year term as National Poet Laureate of the U.S. Introduced in 1996 by The Academy of American Poets, National Poetry Month is celebrated each year in April.
Eliot’s opening lines are:
April is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.
Winter kept us warm, covering
Earth in forgetful snow, feeding
A little life with dried tubers.
Limón has also written about the unfolding of spring in her wonderful poem, “Instructions on Not Giving Up” from 2017:
More than the fuchsia funnels breaking out
of the crabapple tree, more than the neighbor’s
almost obscene display of cherry limbs shoving
their cotton candy-colored blossoms to the slate
sky of Spring rains, it’s the greening of the trees
that really gets to me. When all the shock of white
and taffy, the world’s baubles and trinkets, leave
the pavement strewn with the confetti of aftermath,
the leaves come. Patient, plodding, a green skin
growing over whatever winter did to us, a return
to the strange idea of continuous living despite
the mess of us, the hurt, the empty. Fine then,
I’ll take it, the tree seems to say, a new slick leaf
unfurling like a fist to an open palm, I’ll take it all.
Tonight (April 26, 2023) at 6:30 p.m. Central Time, The Academy of American Poets is hosting online an annual reading of favorite poems by luminaries from across the arts and culture. Registration is free at this link.
Here at Practicing Presence, I’m pleased to share work from members of The Abbey community.
cowgirl, rope thrower,
singer with sisters
serenading beneath stars,
camping by your side,
Guadalupe, Rio Madre
river of my childhood,
I am you.
Strong woman in blue jeans,
feeding cows, drawing water
in the bucket clanking up
from the well.
They said to me,
“Where is your dress,
your make-up, your lipstick?
Where is your party invitation?
I turned away, Guadalupe,
my river, Rio Madre.
I turned instead
to your clear depths.
I glide with you, in you
over water-washed stones
forgetting what is asked of me
I only desire
to know you,
to be you,
Consider the Kingdom of trees that sits in this labyrinth,
strong, separate, together.
See their vivid, powdery leaves, pale skin,
trunks thin with age.
Feel their deep roots.
Five of us walk, lost in the labyrinth’s sights and sounds.
Hands stuffed in pockets, eyes squinting against the wind
we shuffle along in silence,
feet scratching the ground as
limestone gives way to sand.
What waits at the center?
A bird whistles in the wind.
Trees in the path ahead guide us with friendliness,
We gaze forward, no words,
just shuffling feed edging in closer,
circling to the center.
The rich, mighty grove lives there,
trees silently surveying their valley-kingdom.
Tiny creatures welcome us in our seeking.
A finch hops between the stones, looking up.
Blossoming trees honor our pilgrimage of faith.
Rooted under our feet, trees stand against the wind,
a sacred web that holds us safe.
The sun peeks through bunching clouds,
rescues us from fear of the cold.
Dust-borne baptism on the trail provides warmth.
This ancient circle,
a ray of light settling into a weary earth
a place to come home.
We walked with others
in silent meditation.
Her ebony feed blended
with wood floor’s golden grains,
like coffee with cream.
I wanted to drink it in;
those roots of herself,
that damp clay of earth’s essence,
that seed from which she sprouted
like the dark barked tree
of my childhood.
Me, the elder.
Her, the child.
My diminutive fram guided
her tall, straight stature.
Rounding the circle,
radial energy drew me
to this soul daughter;
her sable skin earthier
than my own olive shell.
Two of us.
Evidence of emergence
from earth’s womb of creation,
The Great Motherhood.