“…the Puritain under whose tall hat
Evil is nested like an ugly toad”
—Karl Shapiro in Meanjin
Summer and sun win your easy sympathy
By easy kisses. Who speaks for Winter?
(Rain chrashing on coastwise gullies,
And a wind cutting the early poppy-heads.)
Who speaks for Winter?
Under my tall hat and my emphatic brows
I, of the lean kine, watch your maypole hour
Thin emanation of a linkboy’s torch
Thrust in the face of old Leviathan,
The soda-ed bubbles blinking in the fountain
At the dim crossroads of your poor Subura
I give you, Sirs, your rosy synthesis
For I, I myself, my own man, I
Will not share his lice with the rat, his warm furn with
The nestling, rustling cony; no, nor share
Snake’s venom, slaver of lion, hot breath of the bull
This under my knuckle I guard is my cold
Pebble, sea-worn, sea-white, acquainted with sand,
Washed by the freshets of my roaring gullies.
Sirs, on this rock I cross my fingers for you.
For I am no man’s enemy, pale winter
Not my own foe, and not your basilisk
I am a wind, a river, the turning earth,
Her cone of shade, or some great monolith
Staring at dawn and wreathed in little mists.
Have you not, under my ruled shadow, noted me there
Tall and alone in the heart of your witching dance,
Comedy-crowned with paper and orange-peel?
I am your maypole, Sirs; your gallows, I.
Image: A Rishi Stirring Up a Storm, 1897, John La Farge, Watercolor and gouache over graphite, Cleveland Museum of Art