Immortalia ne speres, monet annus et almum
Quae rapit hora diem.
-Horace; Odes (IV:7)
Month to month like threads laid crosswise at widths
Make a weave of season’s textures
Which interchange with each pulling away
Almost nightly, or when divinity
Comes to visit, whether for suspect or
Noble reasons, to hear the cantos
A Penelope or an Arachne
Might string along – to hear, in day’s small chambers,
In week and fortnight houses, in months’ mansions,
The estate of years – to hear and cherish
Sorrow or joy and the shadows between
As if they were different slants of a sunbeam
Registering climates on the hand in key, pitch and tone
– To hear major silences in sullen grey,
The slog and sleet which are rests and stops,
The forecast and unforeseen, the genius
Behind their miraculous compositions:
And then, to undo it all, and start again;
This is not to fear from month to month, but to know
That all things are timely, all lengths enclosed by time,
And if we ourselves are plucked from the skein,
Our patterns are finished for us by God. . .
But there is more to a month than its weather –
There is its measure of soul, embedded
In every month and
moment come to pass:
January of the gelid-eyed, blue-glass
Fastens her doorway-gaze to year’s impasse.
February, whose feverish twist of lips
Is an icicle wrapped in cotton strips.
March blasts the world with an organ chord;
He is Spring’s protectorate and warlord.
That thin lily of frail sweetness, April
Is ephemeral as her days, yet just as cruel.
May, the matron of heaven’s angel-choir,
Fulfilling spring with first signs of summer.
June, the simple seed, the simple vintage,
Simple flower and fruit in summer’s montage.
But July whom I knew, loved and drank to,
Inebriates me with a stronger brew.
August, the emperor of summer’s time
Prefigures the goldenrod past its prime.
September stands in sad nobility
With crumbling arches of elm and oak tree.
October, too, holds honor with a breath –
Each pile of leaves that burns with sweetest death.
November, the minor chord of sorrowing,
Arrears the land for all its borrowing.
And, though full of dead weathers, December
Lives on a poor child’s hope to remember
Who knows if Jamie Wyeth meant these things?
Paintings are to the poet what God is to negation,
That is, the only way for either to entertain with voices,
To give voice at all, is by blocking out
What is true for all seasons. What remains,
The differentiae, is the only act of fidelity
Required. What remains is a little space
To work out the admixture of colors,
Taking on Penelope’s suit, as if I were another
Brazen and horny-handed suitor unconcerned
About the finished product. But it’s the colors
Flayed by day in the dusty sun or cooled
By the subterranean shelter
Of a root-cellar which reveal the design.
Go then, my rhythms, like the susurrus
Of unreeling yarn, with a Greekness and a Romaness.
Call down Athena to attest to grace that will endow
My words with sight: January is a god, February, a fever,
March, another god, April, fructified light,
May, pure as pears, June, empirically wedded to July,
August, downfall of empire’s misplaced calendar.
September is boding virtue’s crop, October’s octave
Is prayer dinning in the ear of barren November,
Fulfilled through all, the incarnate words of December.