Still Life: Spring and Winter

Lines on Milton’s “L’Allegro” and “Il Penseroso”

Illustration to Miltons L‘Allegro and Il Penseroso, William Blake

1: Spring

As Spring. Into the plains, south of Abilene, north of Wichita,
Kansas prairieland, where May’s rain streams like wreathed
smiles and lark song flies in dappled skies, tallgrass wends

with prairie smoke, sweetbriar, clover, and blazing star. Bluestem
flowers white against the setting sun, exhaling in a throe, sizzling the
memory of winter, burrowing in fallow ground, dirt deep in milo fields.

Sheaves of wheat grow sun yellow amid red barns, their doors open
in heaving sighs. Dry seedlings sprout. Corn greens on husks, their amber
tassels trembling in Springtime’s freshening breezes. Amid the whistle

of swallow and sparrow, kingbird and warbler, the chug of tractors
scythe to plough furrows in pied daisies, uplifting the land from
its winter knell. The sky is blue and shaded with powder whiffs,

cloud shadows lazy upon the curvature of the earth. Hawks wheel,
their chests white against the cirrus striations, white as hope from a once dark
world. I’ve become the plains, their hillocks a maze of marvel, charmed

by the distance of distance. I’ve become Spring, as wind weaves
through a lone cottonwood’s quiet leaves, the nearest sounds
a windmill’s whisper, a cow’s lowing call to romance.

2: Winter

As Winter. Along the Gulf coast,
between Bolivar and Beaumont, East Texas,
the sun, eclipse black, has inhaled

in a sigh, and the memory of summer, an undertow,
darkens the murky sea, dredged in riptides.
The sky is leaden green with sea mist. Gray cloud cover

cowers with hopelessness. Gulls wheel and screech, shunning
folly’s noises, black against the gray clouds, commas punctuating
the sky in endless stammering, blank verse without verbs.

A swarm of mosquitos wheezes as thick as motes, as feverish
as mad dreams, hissing like tar steaming, their falsetto organs peal.
My chest heaves,

the air heavy with the scent of crab carapaces and
webs of strewn seaweed littering the sand’s darkest grains.
I’ve become the coast’s sullen roar. I’ve become pensive December.

My mouth tastes of salt, my fingernails, like waves breaking
on shore, claw and question submerging, to live beneath
the churning seas.