The Cruel Month of April
One of my favorite poets has always been T.S.Eliot. I had an English professor in college who read Eliot to us in a voice deep and unforgettable. He terrified me most of the time. Skeletal in appearance with a long thin bony face, he almost never smiled. He bore an eerie resemblance to the skeleton that hung in the biology lab. But I loved his class because it was obvious how much he loved the poetry he taught us. I especially liked Eliot’s The Waste Land, written in 1922. The first section titled “The Burial of the Dead” begins with these famous words:
April is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.
April comes in with its chilly rain and shifting colors, the ground suddenly sprouting crocus and daffodils, hyacinths and tulips, and color replaces the dark of the winter. Hope is waiting there for us to discover.
Another favorite poet of mine is Wordsworth. I must have been as introspective and at times exceeding sad in my college days as I often am now, which is probably why I loved the romantic poets most of all. Here is the first stanza of Wordworth’s poem “I Wandered Lonely…”:
I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and hills
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.
I think I would rather view April as a time of golden daffodils rather than a time of cruelty. It is really both for me, the month of my sister’s death as well as the hope for a new configuration of my life. The pastel colors of spring quicken the senses, lift the spirits, bring an energy and life force to me and I suspect to all of us. It doesn’t matter that there are still blackened piles of snow along the edges of the road. It doesn’t matter that the air is still chilled and wind powerful at times. I am watching a child across the street at play, wearing high rubber boots and carrying a branch, using it like a walking stick as she prances freely around her front yard. This morning I heard the song of my favorite summer bird, only five notes, but a melody so clear and joyful.
The snow will melt. The sun will become warmer. The daffodils will poke up through the hard earth, songbirds will begin every day with unforgettable melodies, and hope will push against the hard edges of grief and bring solace at last.