March, Missouri
To Leonard Eslick

The weather last month was not winter weather:
warm wind, gentle sun in sky,
cool, not cold, clear moonlit nights-
weather such as one does not at first enjoy,
readied as one is for north wind, freezing rain.
But mild day followed unseasonable mild day,

one opened windows, one allowed
doors to swing, one lived at last
between times, charmed care-free,
dreaming daffodils.
In earliest March
black wind wedged the candid snow
weather and earth between,
driving day-long victory home
to massive drifts.

Unreadied, we faced winter again
with halfhearted shifts.

It was, I think, in suchlike weather
Su Tungpo thanked God
his toll had worked the Easter Slope
Into fruitful soil.
"I have a garden fills our plate,
my wife shall raise silk-worms,
I shall till the field,
so shall we both live late
favoured by heaven's decrees."

March stormed him with a summons to the court.
"Where is my home now," he cried,
"I have no home," and for sure
it was no homelife he began to endure,
yet when it came time
he fared forth gentle with reason.

* * *

To greet unwisdomed change of season
is to fail the unexpected
test, ruin completed.

There was a man was told a secret,
silver key for lock of gold.
He used the key, and when he was old
he lost it.
His skill to open the secret gone,
he planned to continue by counterfeit
still to charm us with "originals" by deceit.

Poor man, his glue would not hold.
Foodless men on hills are not bold,
headless women are unfitted for speech,
only his tears remained within his reach.
He dreamed himself, watched him go,
saw him far down the road,
crowds cheering, trumpets blaring,
only his back did he show.
Himself drab hating himself fay,
he and himself now must make together
every step of a hard way,
the one with dry hand
accepting loss and
their likeness poisoning the other.

My man had nothing his to keep
to whom a secret had been lent.
What it opened on when all
it secreted was spent-
dust, raised a pall
for his rest through a last season,
did he say "thank you" for the right reason.

Forture beyond their foresight
masters most with shifting wind.
I have seen the wind shift
from south to west to north
here within a dozen hours,
and weather with the wind from flowers
of sunlight to bitter flowers of snow,
me then cowering bone-sore,
combating retractile fear
with bankrupt self.
So often and so often and again today
I thought me helpless, emptied of strength,
yet bore hard against the relentless blast,
chilled fought its chill death,
its gift of closure, precise, unchosen,
to be wrought in me to the last breath.

Easy it would have been to yield
me where snow blanketed the unfurrowed field.

Who dares choose the hour of his death,
rule it is finished to his own self?

* * *

That perfect self sages praise-
its fruits graced with reason in love-
who shall shape it, who describe
what every image would circumscribe
more strictly than one's hand one's glove?

It grows mastering the unthought-of change
love's way in unrestricted range.
But is one ever perfect here and now?
One is all too sure that one is not.

So are the wise not perfect
here and now.
Difficult to distinguish
from others in daily life,
their difference shows
when questioning event
requires exact response,
when it is wisdom to avoid
the routine answer,
when love alive alone proffers
love's unpredictable reply.

Here now we live a March
savage and leonine.
Later, midwestern spring
will shock us bursting
from the naked soil
like a fancied Proserpine
rushing from her unloved lover
into the sun,
and overnight summer will have begun
to search muscle and bone
with heat that cracks stone,
and after summer fall
until winter closes all.

And all again begins again,
each time other, each time same,
cycles of rising and resting
which do not fit our bounds.
We face a testing
based on other grounds than nature's;
not on weather's may we shape our features,
any weather is good weather
for the loving soul,
spring show, summer its perfect noon,
autumnal moon, winter snow.


© Brian Coffey