March Letters

The year was bitter:
catkin, pussy-willow, had a time of it
to lick the starry
nights and their black woods wired by frost.
Here the sun failed
early, dogwood dowers struck the coppice
later than anyone we knew could remember.
By the last
letter you sent
from England where of course lilacs danced about
and the cuckoo sang in contractions,
I’d say we compared springs.
No coincidence,
your first going came in with the cold.
Love couldn’t rise with sap there was so little
of either: my trees were motionless
and frozen, yours
brought on into spring by the mild damp.
Formally, I sent love.
I felt our marriage stiffen.
We’d been happy enough
I thought. You wrote your father had died in Florida
and was coming home by air.
His rich body straddled the ocean between us,
a millionaire migratory ghost
sharpening the distance. My ill nature
knew you’d be “tied at home” a bit longer.
You were thinking me out.
Replying, I still grew hope
in our garden; that bitter year a light touch
beckoned you, as if its phrases were just stepping
delicately as people must in cold weather.