The Cedars


The dried body of winter is hard to kill.
Frost crumbles the dead bracken, greys the old grass,
and the great hemisphere of air goes flying
barren and cold from desert or polar seas,
tattering fern and leaf. By the sunken pool
the sullen Sodom-apple grips his scarlet fruit.
Spring, returner, knocker at the iron gates,
why should you return? None wish to live again.
Locked in our mourning, in our sluggish age,
we stand and think of past springs, of deceits not yet forgotten.
Then we answered you in youth and joy; we threw
open our strongholds, and hung our walls with flowers.
Do not ask us to answer again as then we answered.
For it is anguish to be reborn and reborn:
at every return of the overmastering season
to shed our lives in pain, to waken into the cold,
to become naked, while with unbearable effort
we make way for the new sap that burns along old channels-
while out of our life's substance, the inmost of our being,
form those brief flowers, those sacrifices, soon falling,
which spring the returner demands, and demands for ever.
Easier, far easier, to stand with downturned eyes
and hands hanging, to let age and mourning cover us
with their dark rest, heavy like death, like the ground
from which we issued and towards which we crumble.
Easier to be one with the impotent body of winter,
and let our old leaves rattle on the wind's currents-
to stand like the rung trees whose boughs no longer murmur
their foolish answers to spring; whose blossoms now are
the only lasting flowers, the creeping lichens of death.
Spring, impatient, thunderer at the doors of iron,
we have no songs left. Let our boughs be silent.
Hold back your fires that would sear us into flower again,
and your insistent bees, the messengers of generation.
Our bodies are old as winter and would remain in winter.
So the old trees plead, clinging to the edge of darkness.
But round their roots the mint bush makes its buds ready
and the snake in hiding feels the sunlight's finger.
The snake, the fang of summer, beauty's double meaning,
shifts his slow coils and feels his springtime hunger.

Judith Wright



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