‘A diligent follower of all virtue does not fall back on comforts, nor seek such sensible sweetnesses; but rather prefers hard exercises. . . .’
—Thomas à Kempis
The tree stood still to see the clouds go by
footing a placid measure down the air;
and, though the winds cajole, I must deny
this slack benignity of summer’s days
till heaven is split from rim to rim with fire
and takes by storm the citadel of praise.
For under the apple tree the children fight,
find in their mouths the bitter taste of blood;
what profit then if, in the failing light,
the bough is thick with flowers? I will deny
the blossom to be sweet, the tree to bloom,
till from the wounded child they learn to cry.
Now who will teach me love? That Stranger who
will write his love in letters loud as blood;
will scarify the tender flesh, and woo
his loved one with the circumcisor’s art.
Not He, the sly and secret sufferer,
conspiring to surprise the wary heart
into a cry of pain: being thus shriven,
who could resist the summer’s sly approach,
refuse the apple, or stay out of heaven?