Indecisive Spring (After W.H. Auden’s “Under Sirius”)

One of Auden’s more challenging but also most remarkable poems is “Under Sirius”, written as a response to medieval Latin poet Fortunatus who, by Auden’s account, longed for humanity to experience some sort of tragedy to shake them to their senses. Auden’s inspiration came from the time known as the “dog days”, associated with the star Sirius, in which long, languid and hot days seemed to Auden’s Fortunatus to be symptoms of the inner death of humanity. If you are living in Melbourne, you may be better able to relate to a season which can’t make up its mind, which shifts from spring to autumn to winter and back to spring again, all in the space of a few days. So I have used this Melburnian weather pattern as the starting point for my poem.


Indecisive Spring (After W.H. Auden’s “Under Sirius”)
             Would your hope make sense

If today were that moment of silence,
Before it break and drown…?
(W.H. Auden, “Under Sirius”)

Now, of course, we wend our way through changing days:
The sun peers sometimes out of wind
And rain and autumn cling to spring’s façade.
Sun-bakers in Apollo-worship find
Their hopes flit and dance extempore around;
Listen, listen, the silent sound
Of spring weaves in with leaves falling,
Disappointment swept up in langour
And our summer dreams ever calling.

If this is that moment of silence, it hangs between
The dog star and our torpid sun:
A quiet emptiness, a vacuum, saying, revealing nothing.
Days pass and fade, not yet begun,
And, sagging into wounded land and sea,
The Fisher King bleeds his ancient reverie;
Thunder mutters petulant
And you, Fortunatus, shake your head
At clouds both wise and arrogant.

Indecision creeps to the table; the meal eats itself;
Still the family sings and curtains sway
Into the sun long, long ago set.
And should we forget, in our vaporous way,
Who we are and what we should be,
The seasons too may fail to see
That all things wend their changing course
Yet lead soon back to always-here.
Will you, then, be watching as
The truths behind the languor finally appear?

Your answer dangles limp in the clouds,
No reason for these rhyme-and-riddle seasons.
Never fear: should spring slip into winter now,
Nonetheless the sun commits no treason.
Our orbit weaves elliptical as it’s always done
And time will know for sure what we’ve become:
Children who forgot to thank the hands
That shaped our dust and gave it lips
And made our ever-circling souls to stand.

The Week of Cherry Blossoms

Today is something of an anniversary for me. Seven years ago, on this day, I wrote my first adult poem. I remember this because it was the last day of winter, and unusually warm. The poem was about a new crush after a long relationship had ended. I’m sure it would be highly embarrassing to look at now, not least of all because the crush in question went resolutely nowhere, but somehow the metaphor of unexpected spring seemed to fit the moment well. I suppose that, all cliches aside, it did.

I went on to write several poems about spring, but have not done so for some time. I became a little more ambivalent towards spring over the last few years. It seemed to draw me reluctantly out of my winter hibernation, when I, like an unsettled hermit, would much rather be left alone.

This spring is different. Much in my life is changing, and though I do not know where any of it will lead, I am slowly learning what it is to trust the God who orders all the seasons alike and purposes love through them all. Today’s poem looks at this idea. I hope you enjoy it.

And to those living in the southern hemisphere, happy last day of winter.

The Week of the Cherry Blossoms

Winter kept us warm, covering
Earth in forgetful snow, feeding
A little life with dried tubers.
Summer surprised us…

(T.S. Eliot, The Waste Land)

And it will surprise us, this week out of nowhere,
Grey mornings and overcast noons replaced
With this unexpectedness of pink

Blossoms bespeckling trees fresh from winter,
A shower of tenderness covering limbs,
Pianissimo moment in spring’s overture,

The redness of leaves soon to take August’s place,
This week just one window of delicate peace,
After winter’s refuge from sunbeams.

No fear; the sun cannot harm us by day, nor
New growth take us where we would rather avoid:
The seasons work, hands held, together,

Guided by logic and purpose and love,
Not arousing or waking what’s better asleep
But harvesting hope as it springs.