T. S. Eliot

Excerpted from: Grief Sucks, but Love Bears All Things

 

Epiphany

 

April is the cruelest month, breeding

Lilacs out of the dead land,

Mixing memory and desire, stirring

Dull roots with spring rain.

TS Eliot

 

It’s funny, or maybe not, how old poets

from your past come back to haunt

you when you wish they’d stayed

dead and holed up in some ancient

text, escaping only to torment

some new frosh in English Lit

40 years your junior

with poem structure, notes on

allusion, and frantic 2:00 am

soul-searching of “what the hell does

this line mean” before the1:00 pm

exam the next afternoon –

But like it or not, when you’re

all comfortable and middle-aged,

unsuspecting and vulnerable,

that line tracks you down, and

like a heat-seeking missile it

demands full atonement for

earlier sins of misunderstanding,

In a come to Jesus moment,

Understanding washes over you and

you ache to run back into

that professor’s class waving

your arms frantically to warn them

We were fools; it’s not the structure, or the

line breaks, or the poet’s tone,

those are only the words on a page,

and some professor’s lofty foray into

academia,

It’s not that at all . . .

“April is the cruelest month,”

a line mocked by our youth and

innocence, becomes poetry only

by the living of the line,

Oh, you can dance around it in your youth,

tossing interpretations like kites into the wind, but

Once the land lays waste, and

your loved one turns to dust by

summer’s heat, then winter’s frost,

only then, when spring pokes her

head in April, is the line made real,

only then does it bloom into knowing,

mixing memory of what has been

with the desire of wanting

what cannot be again

And the juxtaposition of spring flowers

against the death of hope

sharpens understanding

Gayle Taylor

2006

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