When I was a kid, Bonnie Smith could play "April Showers" on the piano. I liked to sing it in a falsetto, mimicking Al Jolson. I swallowed a button once in my foolhardy attempt to achieve his vocal effect of sound tumbling over river stones. Then along came ee cummings who brought April up a lot. She seemed to be a girl about my age who brought springtime "into the ragged meadows of (his) soul." A few years later T.S. Eliot informed me that April is cruel. There I sat, caught in paradox. But Pat Kelly came along and quoted a few lines from Rawlings: "All my life, when April is a thin green, and the flavor of rain is on my tongue, a wound will throb, and nostalgia will fill me for something I cannot quite remember." (The Yearling) He and I married in April, on a rainy day in Minnesota. Ten years later, in April, he was dying and told me I should marry again. When I protested that I didn't know anyone to marry, Pat said, "Someone will come." And John came.
Today, on this April afternoon, it will have been two years since John died. It snowed that afternoon just after he breathed his last breath, just to show how intense a paradox can get. Thin green grasses poked their spears above the freezing white. The cruelist month? Ah, Yes. Nostalgia? Yes, to that as well. Of Grace, John was the most complete manifestation I've been given. The wound throbs, the rains fall, but something truly rising is planted in the ragged meadows of my soul.
Now I intend to quote a whole poem from cummings. You may stop reading here if cummings has a tendency to set your mind spinning with his strange punctuation, his lower case, his unfinished and circular syntax. But I'd never read this one before today, and what a surprise to find that it includes the whole story:
Now i lay (with everywhere around
me(the great dim deep sound
of rain ;and of always and of nowhere)and
what a gently welcoming darkestness--
now i lay me down(in a most steep
more than music)feeling that sunlight is
(life and day are)only loaned:whereas
night is given(night and death and the rain
are given;and given is how beautifully snow)
now i lay me down to dream of(nothing
i or any somebody or you
can begin to begin to imagine)
something which nobody may keep.
now i lay me down to dream of Spring
(Thanks to Krista Karels for the thin green photo)