Those laden lilacs
Came stark, spindly,
Like walking wounded
We watched them waken
To rot and rootbreak,
And saw them shiver
Of night and numbness
Out of present pain
Their bullet-shaped buds
As if they aimed

But the sun suddenly
And green and grateful
Healed in that hush,
These lacquered leaves
And the big blooms
Have kept their counsel,
Of their mortal message,
The depth and dumbness
By the pure power

at the lawn’s end
and in staggered file,
from the dead of winter.
in the brusque weather
to ripped branches,
as the memory swept them
and the taste of nothing.
and from past terror
came quick and bursting,
to be open with us!

settled about them,
the lilacs grew,
that hospital quiet.
where the light paddles
buzzing among them
conveying nothing
unless one should measure
of death’s kingdom
of this perfume.

This Issue

December 12, 1963