Saturday, March 21, 2009


When Emily Dickinson wrote a poem about the month of March, she said, “A light exists in Spring/not present on the year/at any other period,/When March is scarcely here…” I understand her lines, or rather, for me the light on The Mountain at Sewanee in March seems to be almost filtered. I can identify with the poetess’s lines on days when the sky is the color of gunmetal, a dull and inertia-producing kind of light prevailing, especially when temperatures hover in the 50’s and 60’s, and, to my Louisiana-thickened blood, feels like 40 degree temps. However, there is a brightly-colored plant that illuminates the landscape “not present” in such brilliance during other times of the year – the vibrant yellow forsythia. Most of the plants grow wildly in all directions because gardeners prefer not to prune them into a more conforming shape. Their yellow blossoms grow on arching branches and actually precede their leaves, and they really put on a show.

Forsythia is not native to America, but was introduced to this country from the Orient approximately 100 years ago. I see them putting on their yellow bell-shaped flower display in yards and woods, often forming boundaries between adjoining yards and sometimes serving as privacy fences. Plant literature reveals that forsythia grow well in places where the winter temps don’t drop below -10 degrees F., so they abound here on The Mountain and can survive to the age of 60 if they don’t have too many gray days such as the ones we’ve been experiencing.

Actually, Amherst, MA (where Emily Dickinson was born) may have ushered in more light than we see here in late March, for Emily also exclaimed about the month, “Dear March, come in!/How glad I am!/…” whereas, I’m more inclined to look for April to banish the dull gray afternoons!

One of my own snippets about the mock Spring… entitled just that:

A branch of rust-colored leaves wavers,
its hesitation clinging to afternoon,

the only sign of Spring, forsythia,
yellow sprays altering the gray sheet

of an all-day dusk.

Tree trunks scale lime green,
straight stalks in a folded over day,

the trees’ eyes are closed
against this weather of parsimony.

Crows caw,
announce black feather season,

crying, deliver me from approval,
from the prostitute of memory,

wind, come part the mystery,
I long for the light so elusive,

for the trees to open their eyes.

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