Cold days in February may drive us to retreat indoors. Life is fragile, as these turbulent times remind us, but we can seize its simple moments—preparing the garden for renewal, witnessing early fields of daffodils (at least in the Deep South), sipping a beverage at twilight, and remembering the stories that shaped us. Thanks to The Orchards Poetry Journal for publishing this poem in their winter issue (p. 23).
“Did I mention I do not like February?” you text,
short on words in the shortest month of the year,
and voyage toward a far country shut in your library,
leaving me behind in the emptiness of here.
Byzantium becomes yours on this black-ice night,
but I clutch your note torn from a yellow legal pad,
where you wrote of craving eight-hour sunlight
in the tough love season of your rose sanctuary—
the bare days of clippers and gloves, the unrushed
cutting out of deadwood and crossing branches,
of sculpting the cane shape for mid-spring’s fever flush;
you’re not out of nature yet: every Friday,
you savor whisky’s sway—the swirls and pull-down drips
into Romanesque windows flickering copper to mahogany
and the top-glass whiffs into tastemaker memories,
the dark aromas known only to your tongue—
dried fruit, chocolate, and the spice of a girl’s lipstick
when you kissed her in the rustle of corn before it tasseled.
As sure as the gargle and roll of whisky around your mouth,
and the burn of a long finish, vernal rains will spatter
this skeleton month, with moonlit hares drawing out snowy owls
and the sun fielding daffodil galaxies, and we will hold on,
adding a few days to life’s brief sum before surrendering
to the glitter of tesserae seas and gold-hammered birds.
Note: The phrase “out of nature” is from William Butler Yeats’s poem “Sailing to Byzantium,” first published in The Tower (1928). The phrase “gold-hammered birds” references lines in the fourth stanza: “a form as Grecian goldsmiths make/Of hammered gold and gold enamelling.”