When Spring Comes First
To West 21st Street
The day we discovered the world
Was the day it had also been there all the time,
Furious to be documented in the seasons which grow on us
So unnoticeably. At Montauk the lighthouse again
Is closer to the sea and above Dyckman Street
The nets have been spread to catch the running shad,
Fewer though not less vigorous than they used to be.
In the bookstores even the lichens are said
To be in danger now (the lichens, think of that)
But in the city we've got the sparrows going at it
Flagrante deluxe before our eyes, apparently
Unembarrassed by DDT. It must be spring
And the blood badgering underneath the skin
Is one of the spring ephemerals perking up
Before the overpowering shade of summer does it in.
Considering its circumstance, the smell of sweet bay
In the Bronx is close to sickening in sentiment:
What have we done? Is it true the English
Could have called Long Island as they did, Eden?
Anyway, if the seas keep warming up it will all be gone
And it may be our sense of this that unlocks the day,
Bringing trout lilies and marsh marigolds into mind
As the last of the concerts are letting out uptown,
And this that brings 800 to watch the egrets
In Jamaica Bay (one hundredth of a percent:
Viewed thus, "population per capita" is really small).
Stolen, our love of the world
Must be stolen from the world the way hepaticas
Steal light from the climax forest
Where alone they are able to grow. Too much with us
And too soon, the world extends its canopy
To alter the feel as well as color of the air.
How much time we have is hard to say
But, swift as the camera's shutter when it flowers,
That's how swift we're going to have to be
As the bloom of swamp maples reddens into the past
Just like the sun. The speed of the seasons
And their slant remain untouched and unidentified
Until the beauty of something beautiful makes the day.
Litte, Brown 1981