Calendar: A Poem A Month

If I were conventional, I’d have started this on 1st January. But poor little February is something like the runt of the litter, the underdog, the shortest month, even though it has 29 days this year. So I like to think I’m giving it a boost by putting it first, and January can wait till next year.

FEBRUARY

Frosty damp February
             Little grey mouse of a month
             Huddled between New Year’s resolutions
             And the leonine roar of March,

Snotty-nosed sleepy-eyed dormouse
            Wrapped in the mists and the drizzle,
            Poor waif of a wallflowermonth
Awkward, unattractive, mournful

                                                  Mostly –
But under your grey worsted mantle
            Occasionally
            Flashing a glimpse of a scarlet petticoat
            In your sunrises
And gypsyflame sunsets.

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M A R C H

Named for Mars, the god of war, proverbially marching “in like a lion and out like a lamb”, the end of winter and the beginning of spring.

promising blue sky-eyes
peeping through sleepy lids
belie the truculent, turbulent
sabre-rattling attitude
of March
– ram-lamb lion

bleating and roaring in turns,
all nature turned March hare
and weather to match
                 but watch
how determinedly
the delicate crocus
shoves its tough little nose
               out of its cradle.

My first grandchild was born on the first day of spring, so March is getting two poems – one for the month itself and the other one I wrote to welcome the new baby that came with the spring sunshine. 

For K. 

Now is the best time of year to be born – 
Now, when the daffodil and forsythia flame,
And blossom covers the cherry-trees like candy-floss;
When the fresh green fingers of the chestnut leaves
Start to uncurl, like new-butterfly-wings,
From their sticky brown mitten-buds.
Now is the right time to open your eyes
And see the blurred world all new;
Now, for the first time;
Now, when the world has washed its face
In the melting snows
And brushed the winter out of its hair
With the wild March wind.
Now is the time,
Now, for the first time, now you are alive,
Now you are born,
With the lambs, with the calves,
With the spring-hatched sun-patched nestlings.
Now is the beautiful time
Of your birth.

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APRIL

Oh to be in England now that April’s there, proud-pied April, dressed in all his trim, Aprille with his shoures soote, April is the cruellest month, the saddest month – proclaim the poets. Is there any more to say about April?

April in the northern hemisphere has its sunshine and tears, its adolescent moods, mating birds and baby animals, but for me the truly unique feature of April in Europe is that indescribable fresh, translucent green glowing from the grass, and from the new leaves as they sprout on the trees. It is a quality of colour that lasts barely long enough to take it in, and much of its beauty is in its transience: enjoy it while it lasts, drink it in, store it inside you, because then it’s gone – until next spring.

There lives the dearest freshness deep down things said the great GMH in a sonnet more than appropriate to our age.

Once more, I have two poems for the month: an exuberant one for the spring and a pensive one for Easter:

SPRING

The prodigal Princess of Spring
Comes tossing her blossom all over the trees 
With showers and flowers all thrown to the breeze,
Pleasing herself
What she does with her wealth,
Snapping her fingers, her ringlets awry,
A lovingly slovenly spendthrift who’d cry
“Cuckoo!” to the world:
Blessed Spring!

EASTER

 Is this your Easter?
Chocolate eggs from a bunny,
Primroses and a bunch of daffodils?

Or a rough-hewn cross and an empty tomb? 

Is this your Easter?
Newborn lambs leaping funny
All four feet together, on green hills?

Or the ransom paid to escape your doom?

Is this your Easter?
The sacrificial lamb,
The promise of resurrection in an egg,
Fertility, new life, in a hare or a flower:

Is this your Easter?

MAY

For me, May is the quintessential English month, associated with lilies-of-the-valley and bluebells. A bluebell wood in May simply sums up the beauty of the Engish countryside.


The bluebell woods, the birdsong,
This fresh green
On aged oaks and saplings – everything
Sings of the spring.
Here as a child I played
And lived each day, each minute, to the full
With no regrets for what was past
Or even hopes and dreams for the future.
Only the present mattered to me then,
The birdsong and the bluebells’ scent
Were part of me and I of them.
The trees I climbed,
Their bark beneath my hands,
The rising sap –
I felt within my soul.

I stand here now 
In this same place
Breathing in the woodland air,
These scents and sounds,
Feeling what I felt,
Aware
Of something beyond
The physical
The emotional –
Intimations
Of immortality.

JUNE

This is my birth-month, my arrival during a heatwave coinciding roughly with the summer solstice, and inevitably, however much of a cliché that may be, June is for me the month of roses, strawberries and cream, and sudden thunderstorms ending in a rainbow. But, since I have homes in the mountains and by the sea, it’s also a time of special enjoyment, when the hills are at their best for hiking and the seaside has not yet been invaded by holiday-making hordes.

Halfway – still young,
luxuriantly the year
stretches itself like a cat
in the mauve-blue-green
morning shadows
inhaling the scents
of roses
and of the warm earth. 

Twilight loiters
plays long after sunset
in the hay-meadows,
lingers on the shore:
adolescent, loath
to go to bed before
the world’s asleep.

The all-day Sunday rain has stopped
and from the tip of the gable roof
the blackbird celebrates evensong.

The moon rides a pale stallion
among the driftwood and foam
of the washed-out cloudy sky. 

The sun rolls down behind the hills
bequeathing its magic to the granite
 of the mountains glowing rose.

 Night falls.

JULY

SUNDOWNER 

How these long non-ending evenings linger
wrapping the sky in silky pastel saris.
True treasure trove is not on the sea bed
but gleams and glitters just beneath the surface
spangling the embroidered lacy waves.
The islands like gems in settings of
red, yellow and white gold
are ringed by fire
as the sun
finally
sinks
and
sets
beyond the black edge of the world.

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AUGUST

A thunderstorm in the mountains on a sultry summer’s day is one of nature’s great spectacles. For many years I was fortunate to live in a house with a clear view across the valley to a beautiful rugged mountain range, and to enjoy the exhilaration of watching great jagged streaks of lightning and counting the seconds to the crash of the thunder, from the safety of my conservatory.

Photo credit: Milky way scientists – Storm over Ancona

The storm lies in wait in the pewterbowl clouds
That lurk on the mountaintops
Lulls them with dragonbreath
Heavy as sleep
And blankets the plain.

Coiled in a spring caged energy crouches
Its charges recharging
And ready to bound
Rolling and roaring
Down onto the plain.

Men feel the weight in the pulse of their arteries
Oppressing blood pressing
Beating their brains out
Bursting the bonds
Of the bone and the flesh.

Skyslashing rainlashing with lightflashing claws
Leaps from its cloudlair
The beast on its prey
Sweeps like an avalanche
Down onto the plain.

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SEPTEMBER

Now my summer’s going on September
And the sun still gilds my days
But the evenings shiver drawing in
And the morning mists –
Mourning missed opportunities –
Haze the days.

The gibbous harvest moon
Warns me to keep my fruitful promise.
I am thanksgiving.

And just because this is the time of the autumnal equinox, a few extra thoughts on that:

Equinox

Straddling the year, whether spring or fall,
Balancing day and night,
Equal dark and light
Deliberating whether to spring or fall at all,
Or just stay still?
Heart or will,
Anticipating, eager, fearful what may befall:
Whether to stand and fight
Or prefer flight?
Weighing the odds and evens overall,
Whether to save or kill
Whether for good or ill
Time runs its course and will defeat us all.

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OCTOBER

I already posted an autumn poem at the end of September last year, celebrating the wonder of Golden October. This year’s events have left me slightly less receptive to the beauties of the month, so here’s a new view of it.

 Deceptive October,
With blue skies and fool’s gold in the trees,
Blazing colours that provide no warmth
And augur winter,
Unkept promises of a chilly sun.

One last burst of gold, red, copper leaves,
Chrysanthemums and Michaelmas daisies;
The last few roses cling
Desperately feigning summer.

Yet October leaves a legacy
As the fields yield their fruit
And we hold harvest festival,
Feasts of thanksgiving,
For October’s cornucopia
Defies the morning mists and frosty nights.

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N O V E M B E R

L A R C H

 larcg in snow

In Spring she decked her dancer’s limbs with green
Tender as new-sprung blades of grass
Or down on a baby’s head
And swayed to the pavane of the breeze
Trailing her mediaeval sleeves
In rhythms of rippling joy with every breath. 

Now November’s fresh first-fall of snow
Has coiffed with a silver veil the golden hair
That Autumn gave, and wrapped her in cold fur.
Slowly she bows,
Proud queenbride, to her groom,
The winter wind, whose consummating kiss
Will lull her into deep and dreamless sleep.

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DECEMBER

I wrote this many years ago when I lived in Geneva, so it has echoes of that city, with its lights and its hustle and bustle.. Switzerland, like Germany and Austria, has a very distinctive aroma around Advent, a mingling of spices, roast chestnuts, candles … that makes those countries very special in the chilly days of December.   

On dark December evenings
The City dresses for dinner:
A Lady in black velvet
With a fairy-light tiara
Of Christmas decorations.

Lavishly she strings
Diamonds, emeralds and rubies
Into necklaces and bracelets of streets
And twists them in cascades of chains
Around her neck, wrists and ankles,
With traffic-light earrings,
With finger-rings and brooches
Of neon-signs and shop-windows.

Road-rivers in the rain
Are shot-silk ribbons
Tied to her night-black cloak
Between the gloomy-looming
Suburban living-cubes, blocks
Spattered with scattered patterns
Of spangled patch-work windows:
Rectangles of pale yellows,
Oranges and greens.

On dark December evenings
Her perfume is cinnamon and cloves,
Gingerbread mingled with
Mince-pies and mist,
And she hums with expectancy
As she preens and adorns herself
Twinkling and glistening
From twilight till dawn
In the icicled air of December.

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JANUARY

Well, here we are back at the beginning – maybe there was some kind of method in my madness for starting this calendar in February and maybe one day I’ll rearrange these poems so that the year actually starts with January. For the moment, though, January follows December …

DIGITAL CAMERA

new moon new month new year
monochrome days and nights
greys and blacks and whites
pristine candid clear
crystal chattering streams
bare-boned skeleton trees
birch bends in the breeze
new month new year new dreams

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3 thoughts on “Calendar: A Poem A Month

  1. Pingback: April in Paris | catterel

  2. Thanks for visiting my blog. I’m essentially a poet and have a separate blog for that activity. It is located here: http://soulsmusic.wordpress.com/ I really like your take on February. Native Americans call it “the time of the Hunger Moon.” Your poem reminded me of all the hungers we find in February and perhaps cause us to somewhat shun or short-change that space of time.

    Elizabeth

    • Thank you, Elizabeth. “Hunger Moon” is a very evocative name. The old German name for February is Hornung, which originally meant “bastard” – implying the month had been cheated out of 2 or 3 days. I think you have just inspired a new post!

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